A Letter from Katherine McNamara, Editor of Archipelago


In a previous issue, see our feature of Katherine McNamara’s Narrow Road to the Deep North

Other letters from Katherine McNamara

Summer 2001

Spring 2001

Fall 2000

Winter 2000


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Dear Friend and Reader,

The new issue of Archipelago, Vol. 5, No. 3 www.archipelago.org is on-line. Won’t you come and read?

It opens with a sequence of photographs by Lucy Gray (whose “Naming the Homeless” we published last year), called “Balancing Act: Prima Ballerinas Who Are Mothers.” The ballerina she observes so finely through the lens is Kristin Long, a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, when the company performed last May at the Paris Opera.

The novelist and essayist Benjamin Cheever gives us the preface of his new book, Selling Ben Cheever , a work of non-fiction about the years in the mid-90s he spent taking the kinds of jobs middle-class people were taking when they were being “downsized.” He writes: “America is an economic juggernaut, and I don’t suppose an economic juggernaut can ever be entirely fair or just. You have to break eggs to make a revolution. Do you also need to break eggs to make a profit? Sometimes. Fine, but we¹ve got to remember that no major faith I’ve ever heard of associates blessedness with gross income.”

A suite of poems complex and ironic, by the Romanian poet, professor, swimmer, and generally remarkable personage Mihai Ursachi, should acquaint us with a poet not well-enough known in America, who is his country’s nominee for the Nobel Prize in literature. “What crazy words I used to speak, oh, I wanted / to be sure that we existed, that truly we are: that here, / here is a tree, or a pillar, and we¹re standing beside it, alive.” His translators are Adam J. Sorkin, Georgiana Farnoaga, Ileana Orlich, and Doru Motz

Ann McKinnon Kucera offers a charming essay about a marvelous songbird of legend and literature which enters her life for a heart-turning moment: “A Little Brown Bird.”

But then the sonnet “No Nightmare,” by K. Bernard, reveals a very dark place.

For the last five years, in the series “Institutional Memory,” I’ve been talking to book people about the enormous, structural changes in their domain. The second of my three conversations about Schocken Books, the distinguished publisher of Judaica, social thought and commentary, and literature, is with Susan Ralston, editorial director of Schocken Books and senior editor at Alfred A. Knopf. Schocken Books, founded by the German Jewish philanthropist Salman Schocken, in 1945, is now part of the Knopf Publishing Group, itself part of Random House, Inc., which is owned by Bertelsmann, the German publishing conglomerate. The history of this remarkable company is almost a case in point of how publishing has changed.

Walt McDonald, who is Poet Laureate of Texas, gives us five poems about the West with distant echoes of Vietnam. “Nights, we rock in the dark and watch for stars. / Children we raised are safe in cities lit / by a billion kilowatts. We know spring runoff // will water summer’s hay, we’ll own the ranch / someday, if luck and hard work save us, if God’s / still in his heaven, if we’re still on the earth.”

I commend to you Endnotes, for the epigraph, a fragment of a poem by Czeslaw Milosz: “There was a time when only wise books were read/helping us to bear our pain and misery.”; and for late news of Sasha Choi, in my small piece called “Sasha Choi Goes Home.”

The novelists John Casey and George Garrett suggest books we might want to read, in Recommended Reading; and Sean Kelly’s memorial to Katharine Graham and Matthew Jennett’s fan’s note to us in Letters to the Editor are gems in themselves. As well, we are glad to have a delightful exchange between Cynthia Tedesco, author of “Suitcases” in the last issue, and Renata Treitel, poet and translator whose work appeared in the same number. Their e-mails reveal a bit more, perhaps, about the ineffable relationship between art and geography.

Finally, news of a contributor: the New York poet Samuel Menashe, six of whose fine poems we were privileged to publish in Vol. 5, No. 2, will be reading at the Library of Congress on Thursday evening, November 1, 2001, under the auspices of the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund. The Library of Congress is at 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. For information, telephone (202) 707-5000.

May you enjoy reading and looking at the issue on-line ­ but also, do please remember to take the download edition, a pdf for the desktop. I look forward to hearing from you.

Katherine McNamara

Editor and Publisher