The International Literary Quarterly

August 2009


Shanta Acharya
Evgeny Baratynsky
Mary Caponegro
Peter France
Aamer Hussein
Edie Meidav
Ian Patterson
Mori Ponsowy
Jem Poster
Joan Retallack
Fiona Sampson
John Stauffer
Judith Taylor
Karen Thornber
Stephen Wilson
Leslie Woodard

Issue 8 Guest Artist:
Kenneth Draper RA

Founding Editor: Peter Robertson
Art Editor: Calum Colvin

Consulting Editors
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Rosemary Ashton
Leonard Barkan
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boulossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jill Dawson
Junot Díaz
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Edith Grossman
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
Molly Haskell
Beatriz Hausner
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
John Kelly
Mimi Khalvati
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Suzanne Jill Levine
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Alberto Manguel
Marina Mayoral
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Susana Moore
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Caryl Phillips
Elena Poniatowska
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marina Warner
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

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

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Two Poems by Jem Poster  



Swing low, she sings, sweet… But the word is lost
along with so much else: the lilting ease
of the voice she’d use to lull me when I woke
howling from childhood nightmares; the irreverent
sense of humour; the mass of auburn hair
piled high, untidily.
                              She claws her scalp,
swivels slowly to the open window. ‘Are you
cold?’ I ask. Yes, called – I draw the shawl
around her shoulders – what are you called? ‘I’m Karen,
your daughter, Karen.’ I knew you once, she murmurs,
before all this. She spreads her hands, a vague
inclusive gesture taking in the day-room’s
blank walls and sticky floors, the inexpressive
scrutiny of her fellow-patients.
her lean jaws working; then They hear your thoughts
she says abruptly. I’d like to have them with me
for company. I catch her riddling drift
before she’s finished speaking. ‘The cats,’ I tell her,
‘are better where they are.’ She lifts her head,
stares out across the sunlit garden. All
that water, she says. I hope the river doesn’t…
‘Rise any higher?’ I supply the phrase,
snared in the loop of repetition, knowing
there is no river, only a pathway winding
away between the flowerbeds. I can’t see why
they’d build so close.
                                She wriggles in her chair,
leans sideways, drops her voice: They keep me here
because of what I did. The vase. She’s thinking
of the heirloom vase, the gleaming fragments scattered
across the parlour floor. So many pieces
you couldn’t …‘Let it go,’ I whisper, reaching
for her dithering hand. The only time he ever
smacked me. Let it go. It’s for my own
good. They’ll keep me here until I’ve learned
my lesson. Then Daddy will come – ‘He died,’ I say
gently, as always, ‘before the war’ – and take me …
‘Home,’ I prompt at last. Yes. Take me home.



When the days shorten and the ash-twigs, flexing
beyond your window like the hands of girls
in a young man’s dream, invite you from your hearth
you’d best not go. I might put that more strongly
but you’ll leave regardless, turning up your collar
against the needling rain and stepping out
as if for a Sunday morning walk, your eyes
fixed on the grey horizon. And where the footpath
divides you’ll take the lesser branch, a wavering
thread of deeper green among the bleached
tussocks, and start to climb.
                                             Each time you pause
to catch your breath, you’ll wonder what you’re doing
out on that windswept slope alone, the buzzard’s
disconsolate warning ringing in your ears,
but you’ll go on climbing, making for the ridge
and the land beyond it.
                                    As you crest the rise
you’ll see it like a map – the abandoned pastures
dropping away beneath your feet, the rills
in spate, the shine off bogland; straggling lines
of thorn, untrimmed for years, marking the old
forgotten holdings; and far below, the lake
so viciously belaboured by the wind
the spray peels off in skeins.
                                              If turning back
were an option, that would be the moment – there
where the track gives out, your unimpeded gaze
raking the desolate acres – to break away,
retrace your footsteps; but you’ll find yourself
pushing grimly onward, slantwise to the long
fall of the land, stumbling, frustrated, searching
for something else.
                                And it won’t look like home –
not yours nor anyone’s – that ragged terrace
hacked from the hillside, the ruinous wall enclosing
what must have been a garden; the low, drab house
at the garden’s further end, a block of thickened
shadow, its windows blank. But when you unlatch
the peeling wicket, forcing it roughly back
against its own resistance and the tangle
of bramble-stems, some inward jolt or tremor
will tell you you’ve arrived.
                                         Among the seeded
spires of fireweed, as the wind’s voice sinks
to a brittle whisper and your rioting heart
quietens, you’ll hunker down and lift your face
to the clearing sky, the little crescent moon
fine as a flake of ice or glass; rock back
on your heels and cry. If you don’t know by then
why you shouldn’t be there, huddled in the angle
of the crumbling wall while daylight fades and finches
in chittering flocks sift through the air to settle
in the leafless hedgerows, you will in time: perhaps
when darkness falls and the grasses at your feet
grow stiff with frost, perhaps a little later
as you press between the untended laurels, driven
by cold or loneliness or something sharper
even than these, towards the lightless house.