A Letter from Katherine McNamara, Editor of Archipelago


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For Katherine McNamara's letter announcing the new issue, Vol. 4, no. 4.
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Dear Friend and Reader,

The new issue of Archipelago, Vol. 4, No. 3 Autumn 2000, is on-line, and I invite you to read and enjoy it. You will find there a suite of poems by Rilke, on loss, translated by the American poet Elizabeth Knies, with the originals in German. Are they not a beautiful counterpoint to the heartbreak of Autumn?

Christian McEwen, a Scots nature-poet interested in the family memoir, offers a lovely essay about her late uncle, Rory McEwen, himself a watercolorist of botanica. Her tact and the delicate restraint of her writing are exemplary, I feel. Three of Rory McEwen’s paintings of dying leaves, digitized images, accompany the memoir.

An extraordinary poem by Simin Behbahani, the Persian poet of lyrical gift who is also a human-rights activist, appears in its graceful original script, and in translation by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa. Rather than say more, I urge you to read it, for its lyrical beauty and political anguish. This is its first publication in English.

Two photos by Thomas Crampton, correspondent for the International Herald-Tribune, show us a beautiful dancer in the Royal Palace in Cambodia, and a chilling truckload of soldiers in Burma’s northern Shan State after the burning of poppy fields. And the bitter irony of Clary Györgyey’s “Confessions of A Marxist Puppet Master” reminds us of what it is dangerous to forget: “My puppet-game, my idiocy is not an historical category. I too had dreams once, with my friends, about the redemption of the world. Now, at the threshold of manhood, they seem like no more than mere illnesses of adolescence.”

A villanelle, “The Burden of Silence,” by Renata Treitel, haunts a reader, like an aftermath.

From London, our occasional correspondent Richard Jones sends his Letter, “Reforming the Lords,” about the Blair government’s muddled action to alter that ancient House of Parliament. The honored geographer, sexual educationist, and life-long Labourite Doreen Massey, a friend of the author, is made a life peer, and enters the House of Lords. Richard Jones visits her there and tells us what he observes.

In my “Endnotes” I write of a long-loved book, The Brothers Karamazov, and the disturbing mixture of high ideals with a kind of absolutism, portrayed one way in the poem of the Grand Inquisitor, and another, sadly, in several recent pronouncements by the Vatican. Finally, the novelists Nikki Gemmell and (encore) Richard Jones suggest books worth reading, and the editor selects a long passage from a radiant new work. “Letters to the Editor” and “Resources” point in various directions and (I think) invite thoughtful response. I welcome you into this new issue, remind you to take the “Download” edition, and ask you to let me hear from you,


Katherine McNamara
Editor, Archipelago editor@archipelago.org

And now for a special announcement. For the first time in its history, Archipelago presents A Serial. Read It Here:

The Adventures of Alice Rocket
by “X”
Book One: Alice’s Adventures Overseas

Once upon a time—it was back in the ’Twenties, to be more exact—on South Sixth Street in Williamsburg, in the parish of Peter and Paul, in the Borough of Brooklyn, in Kings County in New York City in the United States of America, a girl called Alice Rocket sat at a counter drinking a cup of hot stuff. She had ordered Postum, to save on costs. She had been fired just the day before.

“I’m a bum," she said. "I am all washed up.” She was fourteen years old.

A new episode every month, from September till March. Tune in again in mid-October, for more of Alice’s Adventures Overseas, in the next installment of AGENT NINE.