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This item is taken from PN Review 276, Volume 50 Number 4, March - April 2024.

News & Notes
The American South loses a substantial Man of Letters • Fred Chappell wrote novels and lyric poetry out of the life of North Carolina’s Appalachian Piedmont region. He died in January at the age of eighty-seven. An heir to Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren and Eudora Welty, he was also a significant critical voice. His poetry – eighteen collections – is rooted in the elegiac tones and clarity of Welty. He also wrote a dozen novels and two volumes of criticism. In 1985 he shared the Bollingen Prize with John Ashbery.

Like Ashbery, he took bearings from European modernism, though he did not share Ashbery’s inventiveness or humour. Most of his life was spent in North Carolina, with a formative nine-month Rockefeller Foundation-funded stay in Florence in 1967–8. His poems registered the collision between a rural tradition and the rapid transformations of an encroaching urban present – the challenge to values and to forms. The Times obituarist wrote, ‘He revelled in the subtle sophistication of agrarian ways, in the artistry of a sampler quilt and the architectural genius of a century-old barn, and he understood that the way of life that made them possible was fast crumbling.’ His poetry and prose harmonised in his verse quartet Midquest (1981) and a quartet of novels written between the 1970s and 1990s. I Am One of You Forever (1987) is probably his fiction masterpiece.

His poems often meditate on the experiences of women, finding space in an inferred reality; and then, without them, it alters:
The rooms were quiet when she was resident.
Now they lie silent. That is different.

A poet ally of Navalny removed • Lev Rubinstein, a supporter of Alexei Navalny and an outspoken critic of Putin and of the war in Ukraine, known as a poet dissident and essayist before Putin and during his protracted presidency, was struck by a car and killed in Moscow. He was seventy-six. In 2004 he declared, ‘Today’s Russia has no place for free citizens and independent poets. […] It barrels through them, not stopping at the red light to see them cross the road.’ It proved an ironic prophesy of his own death. He was a founder of the Russian conceptualism movement, the obituaries said, ‘an avant-garde fusion of art and prose that thumbed its nose at the restrictions of the Socialist Realism that predominated in the 1970s and ’80s.’

In 1999 he received the first independent literary prize, the Andrei Bely for poetry that rejects censorship. He was also a novelist. ‘He was a living legend,’ said Boris Filanovsky, who wrote an opera based on Rubinstein’s works that premiered in 2011. ‘His texts concern the very matter of language – what we say in Russia now seems to be stolen from Rubinstein’s texts.’ The social media response to his death was widespread.

Surveillance Cameras • Some American friends have been doing weekend work at an independent bookshop. It was surprising, they said, to see a sign posted in the history section advising customers that a surveillance camera had been installed. This was because books on Palestinian and Jewish history, but especially Palestinian, had been despoiled – back covers and pages torn out, etc. Such vandalism, targeting an independent bookshop in a mixed and diverse community: what outcome does it seek?

A great publisher revives • It was announced on 24 January that Christopher MacLehose, one of the most inventive publishers of the last fifty years, will be launching Open Borders Press at Orenda Books. Karen Sullivan, Publisher of Orenda Books, announced that MacLehose will lead Orenda’s first-ever imprint. MacLehose’s Mountain Leopard Press list was sold by Welbeck to Hachette in December 2022. He will now publish Open Borders Press as an associate list of Orenda Books.

Having commissioned translations from thirty-seven languages during his years as a publisher, MacLehose will continue to champion authors of exceptional quality from all over the world. The list hopes to match the success of the Harvill Press (established by him) and MacLehose Press, publishing the best literary fiction and non-fiction, much of it in translation. The quality of the translations and of every aspect of the design of the books will (as in the past) be paramount. Koukla MacLehose, who founded the celebrated scouting agency that bore her name, will work with the Press. The first Open Borders Press title, Andrey Kurkov’s Our Daily War, a sequel to the international bestselling Diary of an Invasion, will be published in the summer.

The Poetry Translation Centre turns twenty • As part of its celebrations – which will include an ambitious events programme and a poetry prize – the PTC are publishing a substantial collection of essays, poems and letters by established international poets, including Yang Lian, Bejan Matur, Diana Bellessi and Habib Tengour. Living in Language is a valuable resource for poets and readers of poetry. It is scheduled for 7 March.

The book also contains fascinating correspondence between Diana Bellessi and Ursula Le Guin. The lyric essays, fragments, letters and new poems that emerge in this anthology will shed light on topics, we are told, such as ‘writing the body, writing in exile, writing as witness, writing as a shamanic act, grappling with traditional forms, discovering your own voice, and even translation and self- translation’. The editor of the book is Erica Hesketh.

Peepal Tree Press and HopeRoad Publishing merge • Peepal Tree Press and HopeRoad Publishing, from the first of February, are joining forces. They see in each other companies with a compatible ethos, backlists and complementary publishing identities. Peepal Tree will take responsibility for the production of HopeRoad’s titles, marketing and back-office operations. HopeRoad will retain ownership and control of its IP and its choices of new titles. This process should run smoothly because both Peepal Tree and HopeRoad are represented by Inpress Ltd and distributed by BookSource. HopeRoad will be developing five new titles to add to Peepal Tree’s sixteen scheduled for 2024.

Peepal Tree is an independent, specialist publisher of Caribbean and Black British titles, including fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Founded in 1985, it has published over 450 books, including Costa, T.S. Eliot, Forward, OCM Bocas, Guyana and Casa de las Americas prize winners. Jeremy Poynting leads it, with operations manager Hannah Bannister. Its associate editor for poetry is Kwame Dawes. HopeRoad was founded in 2010 by Rosemarie Hudson. Her emphasis has been to promote writing from and about Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Rosemarie was joined in 2019 by Pete Ayrton, founder of Serpent’s Tail.

Authors are investing their writing in Substack • Seven years from the publishing platform’s launch, Substack is helping many writers ‘break through the noise’ and build a readership that can answer back, without forfeiting rights to their work. Fiction writers feature, but so do poets, poetry critics and readers. A spokesperson for Substack says, ‘most readers only stay in touch with the writers they love through the books they publish, at best, every few years. Substack enables them to have a constant dialogue with their favourite authors, understanding their thoughts and ideas beyond the novels they write.’

We invite readers to contribute advocacies of Substack poets and critics with whom they regularly engage. Among the poets I subscribe to are Zohar Atkins, Jeremy Noel-Tod, Victoria Moul… And PN Review itself has a lively Substack account.

Paula Modersohn-Becker • Michael Augustin writes: I wanted to let your readers know that there will be a spectacular exhibition of paintings by Paula Modersohn-Becker in New York at Neue Galerie / New Gallery and at The Art Institute of Chicago this year.
Art Institute of Chicago 

This item is taken from PN Review 276, Volume 50 Number 4, March - April 2024.

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