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. Poems by Kapka Kassabova  


Lovers of the Arctic Circle
After the eponymous film by Julio Medem

I can see it, I can see exactly
how it will unfold.
I see us falling through cold
cloud, water, ice,
falling like stunned birds
shot by lightning.
Our story is already told
but hasn’t yet begun –
so I start running, I run
past my other lives,
where all the safer choices lie,
where people that I haven’t met
are signaling with smiles,
and then they are a blur,
I run so our story doesn’t die.
I have no time to stop, I’m in a wild
hurry, I’m in a dreadful hurry,
running to the silent white
where you are high
up and bent like Atlas
under darkened skies.


The problem with perfection

We reach perfection in the garden
in the slow night between seasons
by loving silently among carnations.
I’ll never be happier, and I am crying.

This too will change, he says as consolation.
But it sounds like treason.
It will get more perfect yet, he whispers.
He is a gardener and knows such things.

But gardeners know too about dying.
No, I say, we stay like this or lose all. 
I am a poet, I know nothing of reason,
I am not wise. I am not consoled. 

When tomorrow we rise,
I will never forgive the seasons.
I will never enter a garden again.
This is the problem with perfection.


Urbina Station, 3650 m

Welcome to the world’s highest station,
our guide says. This is our last destination.

Observe the vapours that arise
from the snow-peaked elevation
of Chimborazo, twenty thousand and seven hundred feet.
Yes, breathing is like eating ice.
The locals stand like totems in the sleet.

This is the terminus for those who dare.
I’m local, I don’t really care.

You feel lost, you sway
like sickening grass in thin air?
You paid good money to be lost.
And now I get to leave, you get to stay. 
No one will look for you. Adios.

You’ll figure out your reasons –
the train won’t come until next season. 


Sometimes we lie

Sometimes we lie in beds big
as houses and safe like mothers.
But not tonight. Tonight,
we can’t console each other.

The bed is too small, the night
too long, our happiness too brief,
and under the red eye of the street light
I cry in the snow with old tears,

not because you are gone,
but because you were here,
because we’re lost children of long ago –
what we do, we do out of grief. 


Nobody will pray for their souls

One Sunday afternoon
there was a scorched white town
like a high-pitched scream
and all shutters were down,
and the Catholics in the church
were dreaming bad dreams.

On one side of the town
was the Lake of Blood where those before
the Incas had been gored.
A park for trafficked animals
was on the far-off shore.  
That, and ashes in the throat.

Two travellers whose names nobody knew
or where they came from,
appeared in the town,
their faces were browned,
they were a bit lost, just so
as not to know that love

is shorter than life, that a night
in this town of long ago
is their happiest for some time,
that when tomorrow they are gone,
their backpacks dark and tall
against the sun like gravestones,

nobody will pray for their souls.


Valentine’s Day at the Inca Ruins

No, I am not sight-seeing.
I’m here by mistake, it’s February
and the middle of my life, and I am looking
at a broken railway across the skies.
And all I know is that it wasn’t meant this way,
the railway was built with sweat, and people died
and we don’t know their names. 
Please, I say to the stones the Incas left above the rails -
no mortar used, the guide explains,
his voice sounds far away,
and then he too disappears – please,
there has been a mistake.
I haven’t been touched in months, days.
Each night, I grow old with disuse.
And now a cold, mean rain begins to fall
over the five of us – the shrinking guide,
a dog with broken legs,
a teenaged couple, though I know
in two years they’ll be over,
and in another hundred nothing
will be left of us, nothing,
not even stones or rail tracks,
and the rain will blow across the plains
one February night, please, I say to the Incas
whose faces were like clay, who lasted sixty years -
please, if no one touches me today,
who will know that we were here.