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by Maureen Holm
Senior Essayist and Articles Editor

A true monthly, Big City Lit ™ is styled and sized to read like one. Unlike poetry web sites or posting boards, this professionally edited magazine rolls over into a whole new issue every month with a coherent feature compilation, recurring sections—“Big City, Little”, “Bridge City Lit” (Paris, Prague, etc. in French, in Czech, etc.), the hand-picked “12” section, “Fiction”, “Other Arts”, “Free Expression” (First Amendment and other political issues), “Legal Forum” and others—plus essays, interviews, reviews, articles, and think pieces.

We carry monthly listings, certainly but, more importantly, we review events, series, and let series self-profile in our “Series on Series” (e.g. Cornelia St Café, Poetry Project at St. Mark's, etc.). We expect to carry nearly twenty reviews of events from the biannual 3-day People's Poetry Gathering which took place the last weekend in March. A glance at any New York listing will show the diversity of what goes on: We'd like to foster not all levels of poetry, but good poetry at all levels. Equally important as encouraging discernment—and borrowing on the old 'If you didn't write it down, it didn't happen'—the review process documents and identifies trends and talent that might otherwise not be captured. For similar reasons, we make a point of reviewing chapbooks as well as trade titles.

We're gearing to do a “Print Series“. Thus, by inverse relation to print journals that post selected pieces on their online version, we'll print selected features, even single articles in a monograph format or do a book anthology which collects representative examples of all sections.

We do at least one monthly event at which we typically audio-record the month's feature and book musicians as well. Examples are the upcoming “Degrees of Affinity” at Caffè Taci on 5/10 and “Only the Dead” (Vietnam War) at Housing Works on 6/15. Time permitting, poems of absentee contributors will be read by proxy at Taci. We think it's important to come out of cyberspace on a regular basis. Even if our readers in China, Panama or Turkey can't join us in person, they can theoretically still order the results (“Audio/CDs”). We sponsor or co-sponsor other events as well, so, for instance, the 10-block Summer Solstice and a July 8th Kerouac run-up (“Subterraneans” at Cornelia Street Café) to Poetry Bay's July 22nd annual “Big Sur” event on the North Shore (L.I.).

Big City Lit ™ shares something with Poets & Writers, with Poetry, Boston Review, Contemporary PR and maybe even with The Saturday Evening Post (the original), inasmuch as the homepage features a single, typically black and white, cover photo. For the April cover (text below), in a departure from the bridge/river motif, photographer George Kunze provided a moist, sorrow-shadowed trinity of lilies that are ignorant of their Spring cruelty, a mixture of memory and desire.

photo of lilies

Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so
—Shakespeare, Sonnet 127
Photo: George Kunze (colaidian@aol.com)

Live Performances/Recording Sessions

April 16, 7:00 Caffè Taci (B'way/110th) Staged reading of short verse play,“The Earthly Trinity”. [See Essays, this issue] In from England, Patrick Henry joins Michael Graves, Pete Wolf Smith and other contributors for poetry/music related to this month's feature.

May 10, 7:00 Caffè Taci (B'way/110th) Alfred Corn (The Poem's Heartbeat) appears with distinguished alumni from Columbia University's Writing Division whose work is featured in the May issue. Reservations strongly recommended: (212) 678-5345.

June 15, 6:30 Housing Works Used Books & Café (126 Crosby St/corner Prince)
Our mid-monthly poetry/music event for June is 'Only the Dead' (“have seen the end of war.” — attrib. to Plato), on the Vietnam War, featuring a live preview of jazz violinist Billy Bang's CD, based on his tour of duty.

June 21, 7:00 Caffè Taci is the key to Big City Lit's 10-block Summer Solstice Free Expression Festival on NY's Upper West Side. Poetry/music event will preview work from “The Dark.” [Submissions accepted until May 15.]

In The April Issue

Note: New call for submissions. For details, consult Submissions Page.

New loads this month: “Legal Forum” and “Book Shelf”

In this month of Easter and Passover, we take a four-faceted look at the sacred and profane. 'Light and Questions Through the Window: Masters of the Christian Devotional' spans the 13th to 20th centuries with poems by Herbert, Donne, Milton, Rilke, Eliot et al., framed by Yeats and introduced by Senior Poetry Editor, Nicholas Johnson. 'I Lift Up Mine Eyes' offers tradition and innovation on Jewish themes and stories. Wallace Stevens provides title and inspiration for 'Not this divided and indifferent blue': The Still Necessary Angels, a combined look at the edges of paradise, while Twelve experiments on the borderline between devout and blasphemous, spiritual and erotic. The Global Poem Zones series continues, with work by Patrick Henry, Paul Espel and Susan Scutti. The cumulative Big City, Little page grows, with work from the personal vantage on Paris, Prague, Los Angeles, and NYC. The Bridge City Lit pages feature outstanding work in French, Czech and Slovenian.

Fiction: William William by Reese Thompson
“Because, sitting on that swing, becoming who I am, and living in this town, I was susceptible to his questioning. I thought for a moment how it might be nice to be him, or to kill him. I thought I might feed him if I was someone else.”

Kinnell's 'The Supper After the Last': On Poetry and Blasphemy
“Believers who find this blasphemous perhaps miss the point that it is not in the celebration of some savage and debauched existence but a brush with Shiva the Destroyer, out of Hinduism, who combines the countervailing energies of birth and ruination. Here, the sublime is the terrible, and it kills you.” (John Foy)

Mary's 9th-Hour Clemency Plea: 'The Earthly Trinity', An Essay in Verse
Angel never bidden, revisit widow former maid;
have with her the way of Lucifer,
though breeding aught but dry regret,
indeed, damnation,
if no less purchase his reprieve.

Martin Luther Flings Theses at Mayor Rudi G
Faith-Based Funding: The Government Remake of Meet John Doe?
'Vain' or 'Meaningless': Different Takes on Ecclesiastes 1

Bill Kushner's He Dreams of Waters (Rattapallax 2000)
“Welcome to Planet Kushner where the world is language, not translated, not transcribed, but tongue in all its Rabelaisian bawdiness, free-wheeling, flicking in and out of grammar.” (Karin Randolph)

Struggles with the Holy in the Poetry of Michael Graves
“God offers no explanation for his rejection of Cain's gifts. So, I saw Cain was Job. In his Joseph books, Thomas Mann presents the idea that all beginnings are earlier than they are thought to be. Moving typology backward, Cain may be Christ.” (M. Graves) Interviewed by Vic Schermer.

Series on Series: The Phoenix Series at Center for Book Arts

Series/Event Reviews:
The 92nd St Y's Rimbaud Brunch (2/25): “Shining Sounds”
Lilith Magazine's 25th Anniversary Event at Makor (3/1)
The 14th St Y's Int'l Women's Day: Molly Peacock and Sapphire (3/8)
Makor's Poetry & Mentorship Series:
Richard Howard / Lucie Brock-Broido (2/22); Agha Shahid Ali / Amanda Schaffer / Daniel P Ellison (3/15)

Free Expression:
Yo Mama!: Standing Up to the Anti-Arts Bullies
“The appeasement strategy adopted by mainstream arts organizations and their supporters in the wake of the Mapplethorpe controversy has clearly failed.” ( Neal Jahren)
Persecuting the Victims:
“There is no Religious Right. It is a convenient fiction, manufactured by supposedly tolerant Leftists as a way of stereotyping anyone who doesn't twirl a baton in their humanist parade.” (John Guthmiller, Ether Zone)

Legal Forum:
A Last-Minute Pardon from Clinton, A Last Value Meal® from Bush

Book Shelf:
The editors comment on books that belong on the shelf of anyone who wishes to understand the linguistic music of poetry, its potential, and place among the arts. They are: Alfred Corn's The Poem's Heartbeat, Mary Kinzie's The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose, Dana Gioia's Can Poetry Matter? Also discussed is Mary Kinzie's recent A Poet's Guide to Poetry.

Other Arts:
Theatre Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Flicks: A Poetic Sacrilege?