I never want to seem like a tourist. I would rather ride the 3 train from 145th street in Manhattan down to Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn before glancing at a subway map or asking for directions from a grim-faced New Yorker who wants nothing to do with me. The first time I went to New York city in twelfth grade, I blushed (as much as my dark skin would permit) when I noticed that my starch-pressed khaki skort and aqua-blue flip flops signaled to New Yorkers my obvious tourist status. I avoided Times Square because tourists congested the sidewalks and snapped photos of the brightly lit billboards. In Ireland, I was the worst tourist I could be: me and forty raucous Vassar College Rugby players. At all hours of the night, we squawked drunkenly, bellowed, jogged through Dublin side streets as if the city was our playground. When I say I dislike being a tourist, I don’t mean to suggest people shouldn’t travel. We should just travel better than we do.
We begin 2013 with our first redesign in decades. Take a look, and read Ann Fabian on the sad life of pioneering herpetologist Mary Cynthia Dickerson and Zhanna Vaynberg on growing up between cultures, along with fiction by Cody Peace Adams, Kim Adrian, Morris Collins, Jen Fawkes, Stephanie Friedman, and William Kelly Woolfitt; a review of Witold Gombrowicz by Piotr Florczyk; and poetry by Marianne Boruch.
From the Desert Wars,” is a special section of startling and deeply felt poetry written by American soldiers fresh from Iraq and Afghanistan,“trying to make sense of things,” including work by Benjamin Busch, Clint Garner, Bruce Lack, Hugh Martin, and Patrick Whalen.
Tonight in Wilcox County, Georgia, the “white” prom, a private party sponsored for high school students by parents, goes on as planned and as it has since the schools were integrated thirty years ago. Since integration, in a county with about 10,000 people and a high school with a graduating class of about 100, two private proms have occurred each year, one for “blacks” and one for “whites.” Last year, police were called when a biracial student showed up at the “white” prom. Apparently, one drop rules.
“When you have pen friends you always feel there are boys and girls abroad who consider you a true friend,” the brochure stated. “In addition to letters, you can also exchange your own drawings, photos, postage stamps, records, etc. Maybe someday you can also visit your long-time pen friend.” I probably convinced my parents that same night (likely by crying) that I, too, needed this service, needed to find this true friend in my life.
In “Chasing The Ancient Murrelet Taylor writes of a bird’s death “in a place / it doesn’t belong, where it can’t find / the right food or a mate, but where I find it, following / clear directions on the internet.” As birdwatcher and poet, Taylor seeks out his subjects, and often finds them on margins, which is not to say that he looks in these places for self-aggrandizing recoveries. Subjects are everywhere, struggling and thriving, and good poets are receptive to accidental encounters and simultaneously, continue seeking. The entire book, laced through with nimble drawings by Melanie Boyle, takes us through landscapes and across borders familiar to Taylor’s readers, but continually, book after book, wrought anew: the commingling of the wild, the natural, and the domestic worlds; strange, shimmering encounters that are not stripped of their secrets. These brief poems let the light in. They know when their maps-of-language have taken us to openings, windows.