The International Literary Quarterly

February 2010


Rose Ausländer
Charles Bernstein
Amy Bloom
Jean Boase-Beier
Carmen Bugan
Moira Burgess
Larry Butler
James Byrne
Jim Carruth
Neil Charleton
Ronald Christ
A.C. Clarke
David Dawnay
Patricia Delmar
Des Dillon
Anne Donovan
Gerrie Fellows
Cheryl Follon
Ronald Frame
Hazel Frew
Rodge Glass
David Goldie
Jane Goldman
Martin Goodman
Siobhan Harvey
Beatriz Hausner
Kusay Hussein
A.B. Jackson
Kapka Kassabova
Velimir Khlebnikov
David Kinloch
Micaela Lewitt
Zhimin Li
Gerry Loose
James McGonigal
Gerry McGrath
Donal McLaughlin
Kate McLoughlin
Andrea McNicoll
Willy Maley
Peter Manson
Laura Marney
Ernst Meister
Lina Meruane
Edwin Morgan
Ewan Morrison
Laura Muetzelfeldt
Hom Paribag
Mario Petrucci
Clare Pollard
Sheila Puri
Claire Quigley
Elizabeth Reeder
Alan Riach
Dilys Rose
Suhayl Saadi
Sue Reid Sexton
Bina Shah
Yasir Shah
Jim Stewart
Zoë Strachan
Chiew-Siah Tei
Valerie Thornton
Anthony Vivis
Marshall Walker
Zoë Wicomb
Xu Xi

40 Glasgow Voices

Volta: A Multilingual Anthology
(One poem: 82 languages)

Issue 10 Guest Artist:
John Hoyland RA

Founding Editor: Peter Robertson
Deputy Editor: Jill Dawson
Art Editor: Calum Colvin

Consulting Editors
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boulossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Hollis Clayson
Sarah Churchwell
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Beatriz Hausner
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Martha Nussbaum
Sari Nusseibeh
Tim Parks
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elena Poniatowska
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Associate Editor: Jeff Barry
Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. From "Enter the Raccoon" a work-in-progress by Beatriz Hausner  


Jane Eyre Revisited

There are lovers, real and imaginary, both as one, who leave immediately after arriving. It’s as if their departure made one’s need for them more intense. A measure of control is almost always conferred on the part of the lover who leaves. It’s as if the space between were an essential aspect of want, of desire. It follows, that proximity, like an intruder crowding the senses, weakens the force of Eros. I ponder these questions, as I think of Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester, lovers whose closeness bars touching, does not include the physical. Their love builds as the obstacles put before them establishes distance, space between them. Could the solution rest in not achieving closeness, but in exploring the distance between, through the objects that the mind establishes as tools for rapprochement?

Raccoon leaves the room, takes his member with him, the same member he inserts in my brain every time he comes into this space. It’s as if this screen, this thing made of digits drawn by the hand of longing, the one that moves signs on a colored background, grew roots like wires, animating Raccoon. From his fingers a surge of falling numbers puddles at my feet. He points to the four cardinal points and reminds me of the pieces of heart, his, mine, the ones we once shared and which we buried as I climbed the stairs and he descended them. “When the rooster crows,” is all Raccoon has to say. “Yes, when the cat that sleeps between us grows at the arrival of the morning,” is my reply. We look into each other’s eyes and, speaking in unison utter the following: “Paws are claws.” I grow silent, unable to speak, as though a jet of water had turned to ice inside me.


Travels with my Double

                                      I cheated myself, like I knew I would…
                                                Amy Winehouse

Cindy, a colleague at the library stopped me in hall the other day and said, apologetically, that I looked like Amy Winehouse. I thought, internally, “this is the greatest compliment anyone has paid me at my place of work in several eternities.” I thanked her.

I am sitting on Raccoon, face to face. His cock is of pleasant proportion, though his mechanical finger is proving a hindrance to the energies that flow from the eyes he’s put on for this occasion. The train we are riding in is full of tourists, escapees from a conference on the proper management of articulated limbs of animals that resemble humans, because of their height. Any further proximity to our species is purely coincidental. The train seems strangely overheated, as though the steam engine powering it along were working according to specifications rather closer to those of a car pulled by the hungry dogs of vengeance. Anger seems to gnaw at Raccoon’s insides. It’s his former wife, he assures me, though I suspect transference is the real culprit in this exchange. I decide that it is too difficult to establish the parameters of his neurosis and decide to concentrate, for now, on using my teeth to pluck at the thick hair that crowds his chest. My mouth touches his right nipple. “Perfect,” I think to myself, as I begin to suck on it. In an instant I find myself lifted up by Raccoon’s dexterous use of both natural and artificial hands, surprised at the strength that emanates from them, as they dig deep into my armpits. Our behaviour goes unnoticed by the other passengers in the train, even though Raccoon keeps telling me that his paranoid feelings about our affair are well founded.


Woman and Machine

Man and woman are the universe and the machine is the metaphorical extension of both in the world. The relationship between woman and machine, outside of the many political considerations in vogue, is a subject which has concerned me for a long time. In observing the daily activities of women, I can’t but conclude that we are, by and large, accepting of machines. Machines help women clean, prepare food, mark time, fill in time, extend pleasure. The assistance of this loyal, non-feeling friend of woman is undeniable. Yet, I don’t think we are that interested in the manner in which machines function, though I’ve heard of at least one woman known to have taken apart a vacuum cleaner in order to see how it was wired. Still, the majority of women are content to relate to machines for their utilitarian purposes, rather than to agonize over their internal mechanisms, and the meta-linguistic elements that make them work.

I first encountered Raccoon while straightening the needle of the sewing machine, the one named after my grandmother, that super-songstress who first stitched the heart on the keys of her grand piano. That was before the Great Horror and the beginning of the end of her soul. Raccoon’s appearance is more recent. It was on the flat bed, through the hole where thread connects to those electrically powered bobbins, in reverse, that he emerged. But no sooner was he fully formed than Raccoon decided to retreat. He bid me farewell with a chaste kiss, before jumping into the Ontario bush, dissolving into thin air. Since his departure, oh, so many eternities ago, I see his revenants almost daily. Sometimes he walks into my study, and insists on kissing me through the printer, even though the two-dimensional expression of his love can hardly be considered satisfactory. Could this be another way of making love?



‘Now in the corner of a hallway there was a saucer of milk for the cat. "Milk is for the pussy, isn't it?" said Simone. "Do you dare me to sit in the saucer?"

"I dare you," I answered, almost breathless. The day was extremely hot. Simone put the saucer on a small bench, planted herself before me, and, with her eyes fixed on me, she sat down without my being able to see her burning buttocks under the skirt, dipping into the cool milk. The blood shot to my head, and I stood before her awhile, immobile and trembling, as she eyed my stiff cock bulging in my pants. Then I lay down at her feet without her stirring, and for the first time, I saw her "pink and dark" flesh cooling in the white milk. We remained motionless, on and on, both of us equally overwhelmed ....’

                         From Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye


Raccoon greets me through the sound machine, as I wake up from a dream where stairways wrap themselves around my legs. There is a slight tremor in the room as I think of surrendering to his fur and the power beneath it. Raccoon is flexing his muscles, a preamble to his raising my body to his mouth, placing my heart, now suddenly between my legs, to his tongue. I hear the music of surrender vibrating in my ribcage. “I know,” he says, without my asking specifically for the shape of his love. “As I place my heart next to yours,” he continues, “and blood pumps into this mechanical extremity of mine, all is upended.” I look deep into his eyes and see that his is the music of distance, a distance made of northern seas, of the arm methodically cutting the water as he swims away from me. A large cat now appears between us, growing continuously, as if to define a new size for the space imposing itself between his heart and mine. I suddenly understand that despite his size and the humanness of his penis, Raccoon is more at ease seeing red crystals in the night. For this very reason I give myself to him, feel the comfort of his fur, as he lovingly runs one of his long nails down my back arousing me, temporarily restoring me to myself, before he finishes and leaves the room.


Eurydice in the Dark

Never before had I experienced that kind of darkness, made possible by an incredibly efficient blind, whose horizontal slats collapsed one into the other, like the walls of a strange void.  As I lay there, trying to fall asleep, without success, I wondered what the underworld might look like: Dark? Partially lit? What colour could the light be there, sifting through the shadows? This happened many months ago, when Eurydice was uppermost in my mind, battling as she was against armies of giant and strange insects. It occurs to me now, as I look back, that there are no shadows in Eurydice’s world, that the images are not cast in any kind of contrast. More frighteningly, perhaps there are no images there: darkness is complete.

Raccoon cowers, recoils, even. Is he afraid of my surrender? I ask him about of his eyes. He points to the ropes he wears inward. I grow anxious and, my breathing falters. He asks me about the shadows in my country. I reply that my constructions grow dark when the hungry dogs of guilt take over and the animal world becomes diurnal hell. “I would walk past your silent domains,” he utters, his voice breaking through the smoke. I know he means to tell me that my darkness was less complete than his, all those years ago, when the gods were silent. I speak, making certain that what I say remains inaudible, because of the noise in the room I happen to have chosen for this conversation. “It’s just as well Raccoon can’t hear me,” I think to myself, for fear that all that darkness might break the spell he’s put on me.  “We should pray for a vision,” I whisper in his ear as I stand in front of him. His little metal finger draws the outline of a heart on my sex.  “Yes, the miracle of the sky pouring through, when we break through the slab you laid above us,” is his reply. I weep silently, as we fall into each other’s arms, in the dark cold room, our current abode.



While lying in bed, in reverie this morning, a state which Gaston Bachelard discusses at length in Water and Dreams, I had this vision: I looked up and immediately above me and perpendicular to my supine body, felt a ceiling so low it almost touched me. Only this ceiling was not made of the usual materials, but of flesh, shimmering with blood. (No doubt, the visualization of this texture, especially its colour, comes in the wake of spending about an hour yesterday looking at lipsticks at my local drugstore). I wondered suddenly if this ceiling was the representation of my own desire. If so, then freeing myself of my desire is probably needed for me to survive at this point in time, because, as envisioned at that moment, it felt oppressive in the extreme. No sooner did I make this insight, than another thought superimposed itself on the first one: Perhaps this was no ceiling, perhaps this surface, at once threatening and attractive, was one of the walls of a birth canal. How strange, I thought, my being inside my own vagina, witnessing my birth.

Her former inhabitants, the ones that interested her in any case, had become members of her coterie of friends, the ones she dreamed of introducing Raccoon to, one fine day. Until recently, however, she had kept these little people hidden from her lover, afraid as she was of his light-and-shadow self. During the long years that marked the absence of Raccoon, she had developed her own meditation techniques, which involved complicated ways of inducing dreams. This is how she felt she was somehow closer to Raccoon, perhaps between his skin and her skin. It happened that she felt lonely with her desire, so she played games with herself. She would engage those parts of her body which had long since been discarded through Darwinian evolutionary processes. It was not masturbation as such, but something else, closer to trance, which she brought about by dancing to songs which offered themselves by chance on the sound machine, the one that mouthed words of pleasure through a screen where the message usually read: “There, not here. Here, not there.”


You Give Me Fever

In his introduction to Antología de la poesía surrealista, Aldo Pellegrini discusses automatism, one of the many techniques developed by surrealist poets. He writes: “Nothing has turned out to be more dangerous than the facile use of the prescription offered by ‘unusual approximations.’” By this, Pellegrini means that, in the guise of automatic writing would-be “makers” of avant garde poetry wind up writing mechanically, following what amounts to an inverted notion of set patterns and conventions, the very patterns the surrealists set out to subvert. The result of this empty exercise is a text devoid of the explosive, or in Breton’s words, “convulsive” power of words, power that can and should shake one, pleasure one, frighten one...

Raccoon informs me that there is meaning in the wardrobe. This message raises the heat levels inside me. There is strangeness in this state. I telepathically convey this concept to him. Through smoke rings issuing from his lips he replies that he does not always feel love through the stripes that decorate his chest. He must, he continues, don garments made of silk fabrics, the ones his ancient sister, Raccoon Dog, once left lying at the doors of the temple. There is a narrowing of the distance between us. I understand this only when I start pulling up my stockings, hooking them to the latches that hang from the tightening elastic garters. Raccoon seems to absorb this as he mounts his unicycle and begins to pedal with that deliberate way of his. “Come with me,” he says, as he places an antique miniature bug at the end of his penis. “I now understand the origin of language,” I say to Raccoon. “Perhaps, though nothing is certain,” he replies, in the soft way he has of slurring his words. Our discussion is quickly over. The lunar eclipse reminds me to retrieve my hand from my sex.


Prayer, Heart

While visiting the Jewish History Museum in Paris, I came upon this explanation of the origins of prayer: “Although there are various prayers in the Bible, these represent spontaneous expressions of faith. [The] prayer in Judaism was created in Babylon during the first exile (586 B.C.) to take the place of [the] sacrifices, which had become impractical. People used to gather together to read and interpret the Torah and this marked the genesis of the principle of ‘avoda she-be-lev, [or] divine service of the heart.”

“You are lovely,” whispers Raccoon into my ear, as we say good-bye at the doors of the temple. The service was loud, rapturous, with the chief priest shouting incantations into a camera in extreme close-up. The vestals never sang, and if they did, only the one paying attention was able to hear the murmur of their repeated prayers.  “Somewhere, a woman and a man are lying down and prepare to feed the large cat they have taken to bed with them,” utters a voice within me. I am barely able to control the memory from dissolving into puffs of smoke. Is it the same smoke that travels Raccoon’s breathing system, as he inhales the night and conjures a space where we might exist together one day?