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

Fall 2001

Summer 2001

Spring 2001

Fall 2000

Winter 2000


To visit Archipelago
Archipelago logo

Dear Friend and Reader,

A warm welcome this new year to Archipelago, Vol. 5, No. 4, in which we offer a selection of thoughtful prose, brilliant fiction, and fine new poems and translations to enlarge the spirit.

A regular contributor to our pages, Susan Garrett, has given us a chapter from a work-in-progress about herself as a little girl learning to see home (the Main Line of Philadelphia) through her mother's camera lens, then the puzzling larger world through her own widened eyes, in “Quick-Eyed Love,” a memoir of mother, daughter, and the history of photography, with photograph.

I believe the excerpt from Gaétan Soucy's “The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches” will send readers searching for this brilliant, strange novel, and then for his others, if only from astonishment at his language. A French-Canadian novelist and professor of philosophy, he is known for his unsettling imagination and subtle command of words. The translation by Sheila Fischman, “Canada's pre-eminent translator of French literature,” is masterful.

And I am honored to say that Osip Mandelshtam, one of the four great poets of the Russian Silver Age (a time not so very long ago: he died brutally in a Siberian prison camp in the late 1930s), comes to us again, and yet newly, in Kevin Kinsella's translation of six poems from “Tristia.”

A young American poet named Benjamin Gantcher has given us four poems of vigor and beauty that we think will bring delight and alert readers to this fruitful young talent.

Gretchen McCullough has sent us another installment of her Notes from Lattakia. A essay by an American abroad in a country so different from her own, her “Syria: The Third Party Is Always Watching” should give us, too, another way of seeing.

Anthony Baker also returns with a column for Recommended Reading on the Indian quarries of Piney Branch Park, still open to the public, in Washington, D. C. In Letters to the Editor, George Quasha writes about the life and death of Spencer Holst, and Corinna Hasofferet writes from Israel about the necessary work of writers.

Finally, my Endnotes, called “The Bear,” recounts a return visit to Fairbanks, Alaska, last August. It is a long and, I suppose, somber piece, for I saw again how that great land is under threat by so much careless, even brutal development. In particular, I would draw your attention to the government's building of test sites for the so-called missile defense shield, following on decades of official contamination by radioactive waste and germ-warfare experiments. “Not a pristine wilderness, Alaska, but a heartbreaking land that, after the wars, people are going to be cleaning up for a long, long time. [A] twist of irony, an upending, a reversal of redemption to betrayal and back again, marks any true story of Alaska.”

And again I thank those who have gone to the “Support Archipelago” page, printed it, and kindly sent us their generous contributions. A humble note to all: we are a non-profit tax-exempt organization, and we are grateful for your help. As always, I welcome your letters of friendly greeting ­ and equally, your lively response and disputation.


Katherine McNamara
Editor and Publisher