He ate Limburger cheese and smoked fat cigars. When Bruno tossed off his Hush Puppies, ready to pass out on the Lazy Boy, it wasn’t long before the room smelled like boiled cabbage. If he took off his socks, you could see fungus scaling his feet. Close up, his sweat smelled like semen. Not long ago, near Strawberry Fields in Central Park, I was assaulted with the memory of my father sweating shoeless in the recliner. I was passing under two flowering Bradford pears, whose blossoms smelled like dead fish. (To make sure I was right, I looked it up in The Hidden Life of Trees). We called it the Thursday Night Stench because the rest of the week, day and night, he wasn’t home. I’m twenty-eight, and I can’t get near a cigar or look at cabbage without wanting to gag, and the smell of semen, to my chagrin, always reminds me of Bruno.
In LOTERÍA—which draws its form from the Mexican game of chance yet manages to convey a sense of inevitability with every line—Esteban Rodríguezpresents intimate and compassionate portraits of family members. Among the most vivid are those of his father, whose crossing of the desert is imagined in kaleidoscopic, multivalent sequences both harrowing and hallucinatory, and his mother, whose high spirits and physical sufferings are vividly reconstructed and turned for moving insights. Deeply companionable, offered in a voice that is simultaneously energetic and guided by confident restraint, these poems are full of love and clarity, an uncommon and welcome combination.
Haitian-born poet ENZO SILON SURIN gives “voice to experiences that take place in what he calls broken spaces.” These are the spaces he writes about, writes for, and writes from. In his latest poetry collection, American Scapegoat, following the success of his last book, When My Body Was A Clinched Fist, Surin illuminates our opaque relationship with the truest history of Black America. His poems invoke an urgent conversation, which is why the word “interview” here feels unmalleable; Enzo and DAPHNE STRASSMANN had a vulnerable exchange about the inheritance and meaning of a broken space.
Interrogating the Narrative of Injustice: Daphne Santana Strassmann interviews Enzo Silon Surin
In the mornings, I like to follow our border collie on his nose-to-the-ground rounds: out to the creek at the edge of our land; up to the vegetable garden near the foothills; across the back yard. Sometimes, the hair on the back of his neck stands up.
Our farm land in southern British Columbia borders a mountainous wilderness. My husband and I find curiosities on our property all the time: peaches picked from our trees; tunnels under our fences; grape cluster stems, cleaned of berries. Now and then, feeding our fascination with the unknown: strips of grass, chiseled out of the lawn, coiled like jelly rolls. What roams around here at night after we turn out the lights?
The art critic Jerry Saltz peppers his Twitter feed with advice to artists. Recently, he wrote: “Artists: Every single second you spend on being jealous of someone else is a complete waste of life.” Reading it, I thought of Lizzy, the sculptor at the center of Kelly Reichardt’s new film. Showing Up is a dry comedy that is a love letter to anyone who finds time to make art while holding down a day job and trying not to let anxieties—which might arrive in the form of jealousy, resentment, or self-loathing—get the best of them. What makes this story unusual is that it focuses on an artist in mid-career, someone who has honed her talent and is respected by her peers, but who is not famous or conventionally successful. I can think of a lot of movies about artists at the beginning or end of their careers, charting the exciting rise or the tragic crash-and-burn, but there aren’t many filmmakers who can find the drama in the daily life of an artist diligently doing the work.