Gregory O’Brien, the New Zealand poet and artist, recently read as part of Manchester’s Literature Live reading series and spoke of curating a trip by artists to the still-mysterious sub-tropical Kermadec islands in the south Pacific as part of an attempt to preserve that area’s pristine condition. It is hard not to connect his poems’ intense attention to the variety of co-existing beings and objects in his poems’ ‘present moment,’ a point at which memory and imagined futures converge, knowing ‘It was the comma, carefully rendered, /that held us.’ Or as James Robison puts it in his story, ‘LSD’, ‘time is a net with a bead of NOW at the knots that join THEN with NEXT.’
In fact, Issue 8 of the Manchester Review seems pre-occupied with time, or with timing. In an interview with Evan Jones the great Canadian poet Don Coles talks about his work as a ‘return from lost time’, while another Canadian John Culbert artfully updates, via his mobile, the epistolatory tale, and CD Rose and Sarah Butler’s stories insist on tracing the outline of an old map onto the refurbished apartment block and cafes of Ancoats and Picadilly. Andrew Jamison and Neil Rollinson offer readers scenes of an aftermath, which they work out in very different ways while Evan Jones offers a Cavafy-like aside on Roman history and a cover of a cover in his response to Cy Twombly’s painting of the ‘Death of Acteaon’.
If these pieces seem pre-occupied with preservation, other pieces seem poised instead on the edge of extinction: the protagonists of Kevin Barry’s brilliant ‘White Hitachi’ move from one chaotic rendezvous to another while Jackie Kay’s fiction and Gerry Dawe and Jeffrey Wainwright’s poems depict figures on the cusp of disappearance, David Wheatley’s fiction a novelist being absorbed by his own promotional shtick and Paul Durcan’s striking ‘Oaxaca’ addresses the chair whose ‘flowering’ emptiness will survive us all.
We hope you’ll enjoy sitting down to read this issue, and check out the Reviews and the Podcast section which features Colm Toibin’s recent events at the Centre for New Writing.