BK Fischer
Mad Creek Books/Ohio State University Press ($16.95)

by Kimberly Burwick

Consider the following timeline:

  • April, 1989: Madonna's “Like A Prayer” hits #1 on the charts.
  • June, 2016: An official decree issued by Pope Francis raises the liturgical celebration of the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene “to the dignity of a feast, the same rank given to the liturgical celebration of the Apostles.”
  • January 2017: The “pussyhat” protest lands a spot on the cover of Time and The New Yorker.
  • February, 2018: B.K. Fischer’s Radioapocrypha is published by Mad Creek Books, an imprint of Ohio State University Press.

Ask yourself what these events could possibly have in common. The answer—unequivocally—is feminist ideology. Such is the meditation Fischer delves into in her third collection of poems, Radioapocrypha. Casting Mary Magdalene as Maren and Jesus as Callahan (her high school chemistry teacher), Fischer drops us into a 1989 Maryland suburb for us to reconfigure what it means to worship and be worshipped.

Radioapocrypha has much to say about how teenage girls in 1989 were caught in a kind of trickle-down feminism, or (more aptly) a lack thereof. “Mapplethorpe died // in March but what we did know while we / maneuvered through First Ladies at the Smithsonian: / ghosts of peach faille, ivory silk twill, / copper shantung. We were dreaming of simulacra / in polyester nylon, practicing our up-dos and / feathering the front . . . ” Maren is caught in paradox: she views Callahan as a contemporary Jesus-figure (and has conceived his child) but tonally, she is desperate to ascend from this tired parable. Satirically Fischer writes, “If you put an ear-piercing gun on the dash / in the first act, it’s going to go off / in the car.” Subverting Chekhov’s dramatic principle, Maren turns the proverbial pistol into something women use to adorn themselves with jewelry. In subtle moments such as this, readers must recalibrate what it means for Mary Magdalene (a.k.a. Maren) to take ownership of the complexity of clandestine sexual relationships.

Not only is the collection unconventional in subject matter, Fischer largely makes us reconsider the traditional poetic line. Written as a novel-in-verse, these are not strictly prose poems, nor uniformly narrative. In fact, her most lyrical moments are reminiscent of the chorus women in Act III of Aeschylus’s tragedy, The Oresteia. Just as the Furies seek transformation from their outcast status and cultish acceptance into Athenian society, Maren begins, “This is she. // Speaking. // Sorry, I didn’t mean to / hang up on you, you / caught me off guard—.” The real beauty of Fischer’s work culminates when lyricism and narrative merge. In the way that a warm-front collides with a cold-front, Fischer’s lyric “she” soon plows into Callahan, who “sat us down to settle the score. He / was a master of sarcasm, the master of ceremonies. He was / a lover and a healer. He was a real son of a bitch.” Subtly, the female voice takes power.

The etymology of the verb “to judge” dates back to the Latin jus (law) and dicere (to say). More than anything Radioapocrypha is about moving beyond the presence of judgement. The poem “(Litmus)” begins, “You think you can a piece of pH paper up to a person and tell if / a taste of him will burn the tongue?” and ends with, “Equilibrium is not peace.” In Fischer’s world, she demands that we move beyond blaming the young woman for her illicit affair and begin to examine the unity of word and action. Fischer furthers this concept by pairing italics with direct narration:

he laughed, held my bangs back from my forehead

chain of forgetfulness

parted my mouth with a fingertip

the first form is darkness the second is desire

fingertip across the lip

you’re ok with this?

As readers, which lines draw us to judgement—the narrative or the philosophical? This is Radioapocrypha at its best. To complete the narrative means that we must participate in the reconfiguration of feminist thought that does not stop at equilibrium, but only pauses for meaningful dialogue that must continue to evolve.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition Summer 2018 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2018

The Ghosts of Monticello:
A Recitatif

Carmen Gillespie
Stillhouse Press ($17)

by Sean Pears

At one point in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856)—a brilliant and underappreciated slave insurrection narrative—the eponymous character tells his friend to read to their fellow fugitive slaves one of America’s founding documents. “‘Harry,’ said Dred, ‘when they come, tonight, read them the Declaration of Independence of these United States, and then let each one judge of our afflictions, and the afflictions of their fathers, and the Lord shall be judge between us.” Dred’s point is that the grievances of the founding fathers—unfair and arbitrary taxation, the quartering of soldiers—do not come close to those of enslaved Africans. Slavery was the contradiction at the heart of the founding principles of America. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration and himself a slave-owner, knew this, but lacked the conviction, or the will, to address it head-on.

In the antebellum period, pointing out this contradiction (and Jefferson’s confused and confusing attitudes toward race and slavery) was generally confined to fringe, radical abolitionists like Stowe. Today, more than 150 years after emancipation, talking about this contradiction has become part of the cultural hegemony. In the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture (across the street from the Washington Monument), a statue of Jefferson stands in front of blocks engraved with the names of the slaves he owned, above a placard that reads “The Paradox of Liberty.”

A key figure in the excavation of this paradox is Sally Hemings. She was owned by Jefferson. She was also the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles. After Martha died, Jefferson ‘took up’ with Hemings, and the precise boundaries and nature of their relationship is a continued debate among historians. As writers and historians try to represent the life of Sally Hemings, the challenge they face is similar to that faced by Stowe in her portrayal of black revolutionaries in the 1850s: how do you balance a desire to portray the intelligence, agency, will, and talent of slaves in antebellum America, while acknowledging that their enslaved status denied and suppressed those very qualities? Historian Annette Gordon-Reed puts it succinctly: “Hemings was, by law, Jefferson’s property. But she was also a human being.”

Carmen Gillespie’s new book, The Ghosts of Monticello: A Recitatif, is an uneven but fascinating attempt to bring this past into the present. The book began as a libretto for an opera performed at Bucknell University in 2015, and is largely structured as a series of dialogues and dramatic monologues. The central dramatic tension is the relationship between Martha and Sally. On her deathbed, Martha made Thomas vow to not remarry. Gillespie portrays Martha’s lament from beyond the grave over her husband’s infidelity, though she also laments her half-sister’s mistreatment under the system of slavery. Her mourning is often conveyed in abstract terms: “In my heart, there will / always be a space for each lost / face, to fill what was / with what never can be,” she says in “Sistersong III”. Sally’s laments, by contrast, tend to be fiercer, and more precisely rendered. “You, gone at thirty-three,” she replies to her half-sister in the same poem, “but not Christ, dear Missy, // white dead widow wife.”

While the tension between the half-sisters is portrayed as a blend of regret, betrayal, anger, and mourning, more surprising are moments in the book when their voices blend, united by their dispossession at the hand of Jefferson. In “Martha and Sally Chant,” their voices are undifferentiated, both addressing Thomas Jefferson: “this nation’s acquisition, his release / become increase: her children // his slaves, / his caprice, / his possession // the U – S / and us.” Married women and black slaves shared aspects of legal dispossession under antebellum American law, including the denial of voting rights and the inability to own property. Nonetheless, collaboration between abolitionists and the women’s suffrage movement was often fraught. Stowe may be one interesting counter-example. The Ghosts of Monticello, too, gestures toward a utopic space in which Martha Wayles and Sally Hemings find terms for political solidarity, if only in death, “Our truths / unhitched from the wagon // of time.”

Sally Hemings’s biography is remarkable. In her adolescence, she lived with Jefferson in a mixed-race neighborhood in Paris, where she taught herself French. When she was sixteen, she refused to return to the United States, and only acquiesced once Jefferson promised to free her children. After Jefferson’s death, she lived as a free woman with her children and grandchildren in a house they owned in Charlottesville. Gillespie’s book offers an opportunity to consider and celebrate that life. But at certain moments, formal abstraction obscures the significance of this history, rather than revealing it. The book has a tendency to indulge easy rhyme and repetition. In “Sally Speaks from the Entrance Hall,” Gillespie writes, “all will fall, / these walls call // all walls fall. / all walls will fall.” In “Martha, We Know this Walking,” she writes, “Who is this woman walking? walking? walking? / We know this woman’s walking. We know this woman’s walking. / This woman walking, walking, walking. We know this woman walking.” In the context of a performance, one can imagine this simplistic repetition serving as a kind of backdrop for creative expression; it is hard to know what to do with it on the page.

The most lucid moments in the book come when it is driven primarily by image and narrative. “Betty Remembering John Wayles: Full Virginia Power” is a spare but rich portrait of the life of Sally Hemings’s parents from the perspective of her mother, Betty. Her morning routine is infused with a complex erotic energy:

When the skillet was hot,
I would empty the lot
into black iron.

The smell aroused him.
Eggs recall the hard
shell of his unvarying
I broke the yolks
and started the grits,
He would go upstairs while
I stirred in honey and pears.

The punctuation is confusing, and the line breaks somewhat arbitrary, but the blend of affection and predation in the language of this simple scene is gripping. As Sally was by Jefferson, Betty was owned by John Wayles. His arousal, then, cannot but contain a sinister element. But there seems to also be care and intimacy in the preparation of this breakfast. Such a textured and ambivalent scene does not come easily, especially when dealing with historical figures with so much freight. But such moments breathe life into our understanding of Thomas Jefferson as a complex and contradictory figure, and of Sally Hemings as a slave who managed to break the yoke.

Rain Taxi Online Edition Summer 2018 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2018

States of the Art:
Selected Essays, Interviews,
and Other Prose, 1975–2014

Charles North
Pressed Wafer ($15)

by W. C. Bamberger

As a poet, Charles North is known for the creation of a new form of poem, the "line-up." A long-time baseball fan, North creates teams of names or of quotations, labeling each with what he intuits would be their corresponding position on a team. For example, in "A Midwinter Lineup," a prose line-up included here, we find a quote from Gertrude Stein—"I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it"—labelled "c," for catcher, and Robert Service's "A silence seems a solid thing, shot through with wolfish woe" taking the field as shortstop. The possibilities these assignments (and the title, which carries its own weight of suggestion) open up for fresh insights into the writers are comic, puzzling, and could even become profound, should we persevere through enough innings of thought. In the spirit of this same pastime we might say that North's stance is clear from the moment he steps up to write prose about poetry and its reception: his stance is that of a calm questioning of the usual premises, the supposed givens of his favored subjects (poetry and, to a lesser degree, visual art) and, at times more aggressively, to what others have written about them.

This stance is clear from the first essay of States of the Art, in which Harold Bloom's early enthusiasm for the poetry of John Ashbery makes North uneasy, instinctively so. The piece, "Life in (Mis-) Prison," allows us to observe North's sorting through of his feelings and Bloom's words until he pinpoints the problem: Bloom's enthusiasm is genuine but, "characteristically he manages to subvert, if not swamp, the praise with one of the most elaborated (not elaborate) critical apparatuses to appear in modern times." For anyone familiar with Bloom's theory of misprision, that "characteristically" and the emphatic (not hectoring) parenthetical comment convincingly uncover the self-congratulation at the very center of Bloom's thought.

North looks at how we read poetry—particularly, in "The Indulgence Principle," how we read our favorite poets: indulging "the bulk of their (inferior) work in order to have their very best." He offers a take on what he sees as its other side, the side that "grants a poet the right not to please a reader in every respect: it recognizes that the 'highest thing' is not only rare but inextricable from all the rest." North has his own favorite poets, of course: among them John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, and James Schuyler—on whose work he performs an almost microscope-close reading of the minute revisions Schuyler would make in a poem, and what ripples these would send through the poem as read. Other poets favored here include Joseph Ceravolo, Paul Violi, and Frank O'Hara.

As this list of names shows, North displays a preference for cleaving to the poetic landscape of New York City. He surveys its (expansive and varied, even while easily identifiable) poetics again and again, like radar sweeping a particularly busy piece of the sky. Rather than feeling any provincialism while reading these pieces, the reader comes away with an impression of depth and originality unusual in simple reviews and surveys. The only shortcoming of this is that North ranks Frank O'Hara higher in influence than anyone outside the city's five boroughs would now be likely to do. Of course, as O'Hara died the same year Ashbery's Rivers and Mountains appeared, no one can know what he would have accomplished or become—and North does offer clear and robust explanations for his claims for O'Hara's work.

North feels that the "New York sensibility or aesthetic has by this point filtered down, around and through much of what is being done in the name of American poetry today. . . . Then how come, appearances and awards to the contrary, the state of American poetry isn't in fact very healthy?" North, at the end of this talk, chooses not to answer that complex question, but the observations and considerations here offer ample material to any reader who might want to think this through in a more expansive way.

North does concern himself with more than poetry here, and with places other than NYC (though none at the length of these two core interests): Keats's house at Hampstead Heath makes an appearance, as does the art of Manet, Edith Schloss, and other painters. The art reviews, however, are more traditionally descriptive than the deeper, more digressive pieces on poets and poetry. The contrast suggests that while North likes art, even likes some of it very much, it isn't part of his core self in the way thinking and the art of poetry (and baseball) are.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition Summer 2018 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2018

Pontus Hultén and Moderna Museet:
The Formative Years

Edited by Anna Tellgren
Foreword by Daniel Birnbaum
Text by Patrik Andersson,
Annika Gunnarsson, Ylva Hillström,
and Pontus Hultén

Koenig Books ($30)

by Richard Kostelanetz

Of the many impresarios of contemporary visual art, Pontus Hultén (1924-2006) ranked for a while among the more prodigious. He moved from institution to institution, from country to country, always as a chief who apparently understood early that he’d better speak several languages fluently and own a big suitcase. As director of Moderna Museet in his native Stockholm from 1958 to 1973, he built an international reputation with such exhibitions as Nikki de Saint Phalle (1960), Movement in Art (1961), American Pop Art (1964), Claes Oldenburg (1966), and Andy Warhol (1968). Every two years at least, one exhibition was devoted to new American art, which Hultén helped make more acceptable in Europe. At the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he also guest-curated The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age (1968).

Hultén then became, in 1973, the founding director of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. There he mounted mammoth exhibitions with Paris in their title, associating the city with Moscow and New York. By 1980 he was in Los Angeles establishing its Museum of Contemporary Art. Less successful in California, he went in 1984 to Venice, Italy, taking charge of the Palazzo Grassi. In 1985 he joined others in founding an art college in Paris. From 1991 to 1995 he directed a museum in Bonn, Germany, and later the Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel, Switzerland. Just before his death, Hultén gave his private collection of several hundred art objects, many no doubt acquired as gifts directly from artists, to his original launching pad, Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, with the stipulation that they be exhibited not within the museum itself but in a separate warehouse.

Ponthus Hultén and Moderna Museet: The Formative Years is a collection of scholarly appreciations, all in English sometimes askew, ostensibly about the first phase of his museum career. This footnoted collection smells like the transcripts of some institutional conference, though none is acknowledged. In the preface is this crucial sentence: “One of his greatest gifts was his sense of timing, his ability to be at the right place at the right moment and to home [sic] in on the most interesting things going on.”

While this quality is evident in his Swedish career (and perhaps in his Parisian one as well), Hultén evidently lost his touch once he went to California. After Hultén quit Los Angeles and returned to Europe, he was curatorially broken, so to speak. Perhaps the hidden truth of Hultén’s meteoric career is that California, especially LA, irrevocably alters American easterners and Europeans—and rarely for the better.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition Summer 2018 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2018

The City Whispered in Her Ear:
An Interview with Cristina García

photo by Isabelle Selby

Interviewed by Allan Vorda

Cristina García was born in Havana in 1959, and although her family fled Cuba for New York City in 1961 (shortly after Fidel Castro came to power), her home country has made an indelible mark on her fiction. Prior to becoming an acclaimed writer, however, García received a B.S. in political science from Barnard College and a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University. For almost ten years she worked primarily as a journalist for several publications before deciding to devote herself to fiction in 1990. Her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, was published in 1992 and was nominated for the National Book Award; her seven novels since include The Aguero Sisters, which won the Janet Heideger Kafka Prize, and King of Cuba, which is being adapted into a play as we speak.

García’s seventh novel, Here in Berlin (Counterpoint Press, $26), was released in 2017. The story revolves around an unnamed Cuban narrator known simply as “The Visitor” who travels to the German capital in 2013; she then recounts thirty-five varying tales of Berliners she meets, many of whom recall personal episodes of World War II and its aftermath. It is a fascinating addition to García’s body of work, one that expands upon her recurring themes of politics, cultural memory, and how identity can be constructed from multiple viewpoints.

Allan Vorda: Here in Berlin is narrated by the Visitor, a Cuban-American middle-aged woman who has been divorced and has a daughter living in Barcelona. What was the inspiration for the Visitor (who is perhaps not unlike yourself), as well as the concept of relating thirty-five vignettes in which Berliners discuss their past?

Cristina García: The Visitor was the hardest character for me to write. At first, I used her as a kind of scaffolding to elicit stories from the characters and fully expected to cut her out once the stories were harvested. Eventually, I realized that her presence was essential. Listeners are as crucial to storytelling as storytelling itself.

AV: “On her twelfth day in Berlin, a young father asked the Visitor for directions in German, to which she correctly replied. . . . Thus, her mission began.” Are the stories you tell based on people you met or read about, or are they purely fictional characters? If they are based on actual people, then how did this come about?

CG: The characters are fictional but emerged out of a great deal of historical research, eavesdropping, casual conversations with Berliners, and, of course, my hyperactive imagination—such as the story about the Cuban boy who was kidnapped by the crew of German submarine during World War II. But I wanted the format to blur the distinction between fiction and fact.

AV: In one of the early “The Visitor” chapters you state: “Berlin was altering the Visitor, carving out space for silence, hallucinations, distortions.” Then in a later chapter you write: “People asked her: ‘Why are you here? What do you want?’ Her reasons had changed. Now it was war that kept her here; also Eros and pathos, the impossibility of looking away. A different mission.” Did your perspective change in any way the longer you stayed in Berlin? Also, did you feel that because you are an outsider, your writing might be criticized for bringing up a past that Germans want to but cannot forget?

CG: Yes, I went to Berlin, much like The Visitor, in search of stories about Cuba’s relationship with the old Soviet bloc. But the city itself seduced me, provoked me, coaxed me into telling stories other than what I had planned. The city whispered in my ear continually for the three months I was lucky enough to live there. Also, I felt that my outsider status gave me the freedom to probe where others might not.

AV: You have so many memorable characters in this book, such as Ernesto Cuadra (a Cuban who is kidnapped onto a German U-boat), Sophie Echt (a German-Jew whose husband helps her hide in a sarcophagus), and Christine Meckel (a nurse who kills her patients). Out of the thirty-five stories, is there a particular character you like the most?

CG: I think I’m most fond of the characters in the opening and closing stories of the book: Helmut Bauer, who was a young boy during World War II and gives us the wonder and horror of that perspective; and Lukas Böhm, who grows up to be a classical clarinetist. Both boys lost their fathers—a zookeeper, and a musician, respectively—during the war and carried those scars, with a poignant dignity, their entire lives.

AV: You use a quotation by Klaus Filbinger, a former Nazi judge, to open the chapter titled “Hunters”: “What was right yesterday, can’t be wrong today.” This is a fascinating sentence, since several of your characters try to justify their actions for Nazi Germany during World War II. How did you deal with coming up against such examples of what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil”?

CG: History of all kinds—official, revisionist, national, familial, personal—endlessly fascinate me. To create narrative, to choose one version of events over another, tells us everything about the storytellers themselves. Every narrative has an emotional urgency that conforms to what the storytellers need to convey for their own reasons, conscious or not.

AV: There are numerous references to the atrocities committed by the Russians when they entered Berlin at the end of World War II. Were these stories ones that still linger in the minds of the Germans who still remember those days? What are your thoughts about the Russians and international diplomacy today?

CG: There were no shortages of atrocities on both the Russian and German sides of the war. Yes, I believe the horrors that were perpetrated live on not only in the survivors themselves but in those who come after them. There is a whole new branch of brain research focused on the intergenerational inheritance of trauma. In my opinion, the best chronicler of Russia today is the fearless journalist Masha Gessen. The Road to Unfreedom, the most recent book by Yale historian Timothy Snyder, is a brilliant, penetrating look at contemporary Russia. I defer to them.

AV: While you do not mention Gunter Grass’s allegorical novel about Nazi Germany, The Tin Drum, you do allude to its two main characters, Oskar and Roswitha. What made you bring up Grass’s novel in this subtle fashion?

CG: I remember reading The Tin Drum in college and the huge impact it had on me as both a work of extraordinary literary merit as well as historical testimony. The novel took me deeper and further into the damaged psyches of war than any history book ever could. I couldn’t have known it then but Grass ultimately opened up this possibility as an ideal for my own work.

AV: Rudolf Hess was convicted of Nazi war crimes and was incarcerated at Spandau Prison from 1947 to 1987. He lived out his life as the sole prisoner in the entire prison until he committed suicide at age ninety-three. The utter loneliness he had to have experienced is incomprehensible. Was there any consideration about using Hess in your novel?

CG: His story is an astonishing one and I was riveted by it. But Hess’s story is also one of World War II’s most well-known ones. I was more interested in exploring the hidden interstices of the war—particularly in Berlin, the epicenter of the Third Reich. The stories that rarely, if ever, get told.

AV: Several of your characters have problems with their vision, such as needing cataract surgery. Lukas Böhm is one such figure, who states at the end of the novel: “My eyes are clouded, my hands no longer steady. And I wait for death, without Father’s courage, to end it on my own terms. Dear Visitor, upward of two hundred sparrows a year die against my windows, blinded by what they can’t see.” Essentially, many of the old Berliners have a distorted vision of their past. Did you find this to be true even in the 21st century during your time in Germany?

CG: I’m married to an ophthalmologist so I have more than a passing acquaintance with eye disease. More importantly, I thought it an apt metaphor for examining the distortions of memory. What, how, and why we remember what we do is inextricably connected to what we allow ourselves to see.

AV: In 2015, Angela Merkel’s stated that Germany would accept hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Do you think Merkel’s decision is based on a sense of guilt about Germany’s haunted Nazi past, which is also a theme in your book?

CG: As unpopular as her resolve was with her own citizens, I believe Merkel’s decision was an ethical, humane, and generous one, no doubt informed by Germany’s Nazi past.

AV: Do you foresee a backlash by conservative German groups against the Syrian immigrants, especially in light of such books as Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe?

CG: I’m not an expert on the refugee crisis in Germany. However, history tells us that the newest immigrants anywhere—especially in times of political and economic upheaval—often become scapegoats. We need look no further than our own shores for evidence of this.

AV: I’ve heard that a play based on your 2013 novel King of Cuba is coming out this summer. Can you discuss how this came about?

CG: Yes, I adapted King of Cuba as a two-act dark comedy and it premieres this summer at Central Works Theater in Berkeley on July 21. I’m thrilled! After twenty-five years of writing novels, I wanted to try my hand at another genre—and this is the result. I’m loving the collaborative nature of it, too.
Here’s a link: http://centralworks.org/king-of-cuba/ .

AV: The epilogue you use to close the novel is wonderful: “And now? What did she want? Quiet, resplendent days in the light. Her daughter a breath away. And a butterfly net with which to swipe the air, trapping bits of flying color here and there. Yes, she might spend the rest of her life doing nothing more than that.” I hope you are not implying that your writing days are over.

CG: Not at all! I don’t think writers ever retire, do they?!

Click here to purchase this book
at your local independent bookstore
Rain Taxi Online Edition Summer 2018 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2018

Summer 2018


Splitting the Adam: An Interview with Amy P. Knight
Interviewed by Erin Lewenauer
Amy P. Knight puts her degrees in Cognitive Science, English, Law, and Creative Writing to the test with her engaging new novel, Lost, Almost.

Poetics in These Here End Times: An Interview with Paula Cisewski
Interviewed by William Stobb
Poet, memoirist, arts activist, and tarot enthusiast, Paula Cisewski’s been turning the Queen of Cups upright for the Twin Cities literary scene since the 1990s.

The City Whispered in Her Ear: Interview with Cristina García
Interviewed by Allan Vorda
Cuban author Cristina García discusses her seventh novel, which expands on her recurring themes of politics, cultural memory, and how identity can be constructed from multiple viewpoints.


Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
Andrea Lawlor
Both fable-like bildungsroman and exhilarating ode to mid-’90s queer culture, Andrea Lawlor’s debut novel tells the story of Paul Polydoris, a gay man in his early twenties with the uncanny abilities of a shapeshifter. Reviewed by Jeremiah Moriarty

The Canyons
Ben Kostival
Kostival creates remarkably convincing characters in this novel about the Coal Strike days near the turn of the last century. Reviewed by Paul Buhle


Critical Assembly: Poems of the Manhattan Project
John Canaday
Canaday takes the ghazal form to new levels with this collection of forty-six characters delivering poems that reveal the internal friction at the Manhattan Project. Reviewed by John Bradley

pray me stay eager
Ellen Doré Watson
Watson’s latest poetry collection is a meditation on the myriad ways the passage of time can be humorous, engaging, and devastating. Reviewed by Teresa Castellitto

Deep Calls to Deep
Jane Medved
In her debut poetry collection, Jane Medved immerses her readers in a world of contradiction as evoked by Jerusalem, the city she calls home. Reviewed by Gwen Ackerman

BK Fischer
Radioapocrypha has much to say about how teenage girls in 1989 were caught in a kind of trickle-down feminism, or (more aptly) a lack thereof. Reviewed by Kimberly Burwick

The Ghosts of Monticello: A Recitatif
Carmen Gillespie
Begun as a libretto for an opera, Gillespie’s new collection highlights the tensions between Jefferson’s dead wife Martha and his slave-mistress Sally Hemings. Reviewed by Sean Pears


Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo van Hoe and the Art of Resistance
Will Aitken
Part travel journal, collage interview, and theoretical musing, this book chronicles the production of Anne Carson’s Antigonick in Luxembourg.
Reviewed by W. C. Bamberger

Three on Nietzsche:
What a Philosopher Is: Becoming Nietzsche by Laurence Lampert
Nietzsche’s Final Teaching by Michael Allen Gillespie
Nietzsche’s Search for Philosophy: On the Middle Writings
by Keith Ansell-Pearson

Despite Nietzsche suffering periodic rounds of disparagement, we are right now amidst a spate of new monographs that bring sober and thorough attention to bear on Nietzsche’s project. Reviewed by Scott F. Parker

States of the Art: Selected Essays, Interviews, and Other Prose, 1975–2014
Charles North
Poet North’s stance is that of a calm questioning of the usual premises, the supposed givens of poetry and visual art, especially what others have written about them. Reviewed by W. C. Bamberger

Pontus Hultén and Moderna Museet: The Formative Years
Edited by Anna Tellgren
This collection of scholarly appreciations follows Hultén’s work directing some of the biggest art institutions in the world. Reviewed by Richard Kostelanetz

Rain Taxi Online Edition Summer 2018 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2018


Monday, September 24, 7:00pm
Alexander G. Hill Ballroom
Kagin Commons at Macalester College
21 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul, MN

The acclaimed author returns to the Twin Cities with his first novel in eight years, Lake Success—not to be missed!

This event requires a ticket to attend.

Ticket prices include a signed hardcover copy of Lake Success!
Ticket prices are: $30 for one ticket/one book or
$40 for two tickets/one book

Copies of Lake Success and other books by Gary Shteyngart will also be available for purchase at the event courtesy of Common Good Books. A book signing will follow the presentation. We hope to see you there!

If you are an individual with disabilities, please let us know if you require any special accommodations to enjoy this event—write us at info [at] raintaxi [dot] com.

About Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart is the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir Little Failure (a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist) and the novels Super Sad True Love Story (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Absurdistan, and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (winner of the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction). His books regularly appear on best-of lists around the world and have been published in thirty countries.

About Lake Success

—Publishers' Weekly

—Richard Ford

—Nathan Hill


Thursday, August 16, 7:00pm
Soo Visual Arts Center
2909 Bryant Ave S #101, Minneapolis

Ah, look at all the lonely people: where do they all come from? We might find out a glimmer of an answer at this celebration of Elizabeth Gregory, a chapbook of poems that combs the inner space of every mom in search of radical humanity. Elizabeth Gregory is one of millions currently living with early onset Alzheimer’s dementia (EOAD), often referred to as “the long goodbye.” Carollo uses Beatlemania as his compass with which to find a path toward communication, understanding, and love. Elizabeth Gregory is for every mom.

Join us to celebrate this remarkable collection. Author Kevin Carollo will take those assembled on a mystery tour through verse, photography, music, and memory, and YOU are invited to participate in either of the following ways:

  1. Send a photo of a loved one with dementia, we’ll add it to a memory montage to be screened at the event:
    email to news [at] raintaxi [dot] com
    post on our Facebook Event page HERE
    tweet to @RainTaxiReview
  2. Tell us the name of a song that you and a parent both love, we’ll add it to the event’s playlist:
    tweet to @RainTaxiReview, #SongsConnectUs
    post on our Facebook Event page HERE
    email to news [at] raintaxi [dot] com

Our mission: Dementiacide.

Reception to follow, get ready to be received!

Kevin Carollo (pictured here with Elizabeth Gregory) is a poet and translator living in Fargo, ND. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, Moorhead and editor for New Rivers Press. Kevin is known to birth cardboard critters and play guitar.

Volume 23, Number 2, Summer 2018 (#90)

Volume 23, Number 2, Summer 2018 (#90)

To purchase issue #90 using Paypal, click here.


Melissa Fraterrigo: How People Become Ghosts | interviewed by Steven Wingate
Elizabeth Byrne: Grave Reckoning | interviewed by Jenn Mar
Jordan Rothacker & Jorge Armenteros: The Guided Dream | A Conversation
Katie Willingham: Disambiguating Poetry | interviewed by Graham Sutherland


Abandon All Expectations: An Afterword for the Re-release of Ascher/Straus’s The Other Planet | by Stephen Beachey
On Expanded Publishing | by Richard Kostelanetz
Celebrating the Classics: Jurgen, a Comedy of Justice | by Ryder W. Miller
The New Life | a comic by Gary Sullivan


Cover art by Yuta Uchida:


The Collected Letters of Charles Olson and J. H. Prynne | Ryan Dobran, ed.
An Open Map: The Correspondence of Robert Duncan and Charles Olson | Robert J.
Bertholf, Dale M. Smith eds.
Imagining Persons: Robert Duncan’s Lectures on Charles Olson | edited by Robert J.
Bertholf, Dale M. Smith eds. | by Patrick Dunagan
Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards | Jeffery Beam, Richard Owens, eds. | by Thomas Crowe
In the Days of Rain: A Daughter, a Father, a Cult | Rebecca Stott | by Spencer Dew
The Correspondence of Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem | edited by Marie Luise Knott | by W.C. Bamberger
Contemporary American Memoirs in Action: How to Do Things with Memoir | Jane Danielewicz | by Scott F. Parker
Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror | Victor Sebestyen | by Brooke Horvath
Genius and Discovery: Five Historical Miniatures | Stefan Zweig
Triumph and Disaster: Five Historical Miniatures | Stefan Zweig | by John Toren


The Farm | Héctor Abad | by Nathaniel Popkin
Swallowing Mercury | Wioletta Greg | by Micah Winters
Dispatches from Moments of Calm | Alexander Kluge & Gerhard Richter
December | Alexander Kluge & Gerhard Richter | by Joel Hernandez
Paris by the Book | Liam Callanan | by Erin Lewenauer
Asymmetry | Lisa Halliday | by Gregory Chase
theMystery.doc | Matthew McIntosh | by Chris Via
The Overstory | Richard Powers | by Allan Vorda


Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence | Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, Dean Rader, eds. | by John Bradley
Lunar Inheritance | Lachlan Brown | by Robert Wood
Blue Guide | Lee Briccetti | by Scott Hightower
Cherokee Road Kill | Celia Bland | by William Doreski
Yaviza | Roberto Harrison | by Garin Cycholl
Into English: Poems, Translations, Commentaries | Martha Collins, Kevin Prufer, eds. | by John Bradley
Hunger | Judy Jordan | by Carl Rogers
Noirmania | JoAnna Novak | by Ken L. Walker
Suture | Simone Muench, Dean Rader | by Dina Pinner


Puerto Rico Strong: A Comics Anthology Supporting Puerto Rico Disaster and Recovery | Marco Lopez, Desiree Rodriguez, Hazel Newlevant, Derik Ruiz, Neil Schwartz, eds. | by Spencer Dew

To purchase issue #90 using Paypal, click here.

Rain Taxi Print Edition, Vol. 23 No. 2, Summer 2018 (#90) | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2018

Yuta Uchida

Yuta Uchida is a portraiture/figurative painter, born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan. After finishing high school, he moved to Superior, WI, where he found a passion for painting while he participated in several local art shows and exhibitions. He completed BFA in visual arts at University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Currently, he is pursuing MFA at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Learn more about Yuta and his work here: https://www.yutauchida.com/