A note from the editors

For the Fall 2015 issue of The New River, we decided to do something a little unorthodox. Instead of publishing multiple authors, we focused on the work of one of the most accomplished authors in the field. Just this once, we took a break from surveying digital writing and chose depth over breadth.

And, in my personal and professional opinion, we made a pretty good choice in focusing on Loss Pequeño Glazier. Glazier has been described as “one of the pioneers within electronic kinetic poetry.” * He’s also the director of the Electronic Poetry Center at SUNY Buffalo. The wide and varied practices Glazier uses to bring words to life are often unprecedented. Watching his digital poetry performance film, Middle Orange/Media Naranja, feels like a distillation of the modern condition: full of endless imagery and more than endless information, international, multilingual, and, perhaps most importantly, ever-changing.

The pieces we’re featuring here are an extension of that work. In “Etymon,” we’re led through an exploration of language, focusing on its origin. The pages change rapidly and seemingly of their own will, ducking our control, just as language itself does. The images within (“languorous lilac dust,” “opiate half-moon chthonic dusk”) remind us of both the beauty and slipperiness contained within expression.

In “Cuchotexto,” Freddy and I found a piece that echoed the complex nature of a bilingual consciousness. “Cuchotexto” is pure literary elegance. For me, it also calls to mind sitting in a warm kitchen listening to my grandmother tell old stories in overlapping layers of Spanish and English, the languages woven together with ease. As Glazier writes in the piece, the two are “family, not foreign.”

The pieces we’ve culled here are a short introduction to Glazier’s work. If you like what you see, I recommend diving in deeper. There’s a whole world of digital poetics out there to swim in and Glazier’s work is some of the most influential out there.

Nora Salem, Fall 2015

* Strehovec, Janez. “Writing Electronic Poetry: Loss Pequeno Glazier’s ‘Digital Poetics: the Making of E-Poetries’ ” Dichtung Digital. 24 Jan 2003. http://www.dichtung-digital.de/2003/issue/1/strehovec/index.htm

On a personal note...

This summer Virginia Tech bought me a plane ticket to Cuba to do research for two weeks for a book I’m writing. So I left my wife to two weeks of single parenting our three kids (almost 4, 6 and 16) as they wrapped up their school year and entered summer break, all while she managed the demands of her demanding career. For those and other reasons, they were a difficult two weeks for her, but she supports what I’m trying to do, and so she encouraged me to go and discover things and write.

It was my first time in Cuba, a place the idea of which has permeated almost everything that makes me me. Growing up hearing stories from my father I learned to think of it as the longed-for motherland where things were beauty and magical. It was in a farm in the middle of that island, where my father was born, where he said he had “los dias mas felizes de mi vida.” His father and his father’s father were also born on that farm in the center of that island, which my father left (fleeing Government persecution) fifty-five years ago. That farm in Cuba, in a town called Pueblo Viejo, was the place in Cuba that played the biggest role in my father’s stories.

On my seventh day in Cuba I and a Cuban brother who I’d just first met seven days earlier, and stayed in his house with his family and drank a lot and talked a lot of shit with, drove to Pueblo Viejo where he knew and I met everybody, including several relatives who still live in the tiny, dilapidated town that’s surrounded by rivers and streams and coffee and tobacco fields and cane and palms everywhere.

These people welcomed us in their little old open-air home and shared a bottle of rum with us at the kitchen table, and chickens came in and out of the house. We drank and smoked on chairs out front, that face a thick green field at the end of which, I was told, the Arimao River lies, and behind it start to rise the Escambrai Mountains. We ate rice and beans and fried fish from the Arimao River and drank and smoked and then we went and found my fathers’ farm.

While there, after the current inhabitants (who’ve been there decades and were lovely people who remember my father) welcomed us, I went wondering about. I saw a pig under a canopy of palms, on a patch of land back behind the house, where fifty or sixty palm trees reached for the clouds - royal palms I think they call them. These palms are tall and thin and pretty. “Atributos,” our little companion, Jorge Carlos, called them. He was three, and he really wanted to ride in a car, so along he came. He’s a cousin multiple times removed, but I call him my nephew. He’d been taught at day-school that those royal palms are Cuban attributes; “esos son atributos,” he said in a scratchy, self-assured three-year-old voice. To him their name was atributos, not palmas. He reminded me of my son, who’s also three and smart.

Back to the pig. Under the royal palms ate a big fat pig. What he ate was palmiche -“ a fruit that these palms bare in bunches, that look like miniature coconuts, about the size of big grapes, and as they ripen they turn from green to red, and by the time they fall they’ve softened and are milky and meaty inside. Growing up, my father told me stories about how the pigs loved eating palmiche, and how the pigs raised eating palmiche were the tastiest pork. And there, for me to see, was the big fat pig under palms eating palmiche.

I sat on the dirt about forty yards away from the pig under the palms, as my little nephew wondered off with a couple other of my relatives, who sensed that I wanted to be left alone. I did. I sat and removed from my pocket a little notebook and pen, and I described the pig, and I described everything my little nephew did, and in my mind he became my father, 82 years ago, running around, picking, pealing, eating and tossing the pit of mangos, exploring on that same dirt, noticing the pig under the palms eating palmiche, when he was a three-year-old guajirito.

I’d arrived in Cuba with rusty Spanish, a camera and a fancy laptop, a smartphone, large, medium and small notebooks and assortment of pens and pencils. I came ready to write. I expected to be filled with emotion when I finally saw and walked on and touched and smelled Cuba, and that farm particularly, where my family was born, the so longed for place about which my father described so much magic, but I felt nothing, I think, I don’t know, maybe I was emotionally impacted, but the speed with which things were changing - time-traveling to 1932, seeing my father and my son in a little relative who lives in this place that seems unaffected by time, the rum, my difficulty giving a shit about things“ kept me too occupied to recognize the feeling of any feeling. So I just sat and described this smart little boy who reminded me of my son and my father. I wrote in Spanish.

When I first arrived in Cuba I did all my writing on the laptop, in English. I never used my smart phone in Cuba, except for occasional pictures. A couple of days in I started to occasionally write on the big notebook. Then I went to all writing in the notebook, and then I switched to the little notebook. The medium notebook had a pocket inside the back cover and it snapped shut, so I used it to store dollars. I noticed I was counting money in my head in Spanish. By my fifth day in Cuba I wrote only by hand, only in my littlest notebook, and by the seventh day I was writing mostly in Spanish. I’d gone the opposite of digital. I was in another time.

On that day, when I discovered my roots and saw my father as a little boy on his farm, my children back in Lexington, VA saw their dog die. He was hit by a car, without me there to help them (and my wife) with the shock and sadness and logistics of their adored playmate having been crushed in front of our home.

Loss Pequeño Glazier’s work, in the way that it moves and disrupts and changes its mind and keeps you busy and unprepared to settle on any one way to feel, reminds me of that day when I traveled in time and missed my children’s first tragedy.

In Habana, walking down El Prado, near the water, I saw a dog walking among the crumbling columns of a building that insisted it was once beautiful. The dog was trying to walk, I should say, because every time he stepped on his left hind leg he jerked back and cried and growled and barked at it, this painful thing that held him back.

Freddy Fuentes, Fall 2015