A curated literary guide

Week #12 / 20th – 26th March, 2017

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Five Things with Marwa Helal

1. The last thing that made you smile.

DJ Khaled talking to his baby lion, DJ Khaled rockin out with his baby lion, and, see also, this kind of kind wildness: leopard and baboon.

2. A secret.

I have been called Animal. I was the new kid. Always the new kid. This was the suburbs. Ohio. Sixth grade. At least once a day I think about the things—I will not call them names—people call other people. And I wonder how. What do you have to be? Not who do you have to be. But WHAT do you have to be, to call another person anything other than their name, or something loving, something beautiful? To call is to become.

3. The last thing you wrote.

the hipsters are going to those cushy jobs they hate in manhattan and i am going in the opposite direction to unteach poverty to teach scholarship (get money)

Followed by a tedious to do list with the following categories: FINISH; REPLY; APPLY; SUBMIT. There are also some song lyrics scribbled on the side.

4. Favourite city.

Cairo, Egypt. It taught me everything.

5. What you’d place in a time capsule.

A print of an iPhone 6s featuring a picture of Nefertiti on its screen in a polaroid on papyrus signed with a lionface emoji and the number 42; a small packet of Bustelo; eyeliner; a lunar calendar; a pair of socks; strawberry seeds; and Neruda’s Book of Questions.

Marwa Helal is a poet and journalist. Her work appears in Apogee, Hyperallergic, the Offing, Poets & Writers, the Recluse, Winter Tangerine and elsewhere. She is the author of Invasive species (Nightboat Books 2019) and the winner of BOMB Magazine’s Biennial 2016 Poetry Contest. Helal has been awarded fellowships from Poets House, Brooklyn Poets, and Cave Canem. Born in Al Mansurah, Egypt, Helal currently lives and teaches in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA in creative writing from the New School and her BA in journalism and international studies from Ohio Wesleyan University.

Hello Again

poetry from Brandon Amico

Note to self: Don’t ever die

How do you write a poem using the word “clickbait”? Very purposefully, and in ways that make such a strange and often joked-about word beautiful, which is what I enjoy about Brandon Amico’s newest poem in Birdfeast. The warp and weft of earth and the artificial is absolutely stunning, with images of satellite dishes, TVs, and cherry trees—items and places that conjure up particular associations about American culture. You can smell the rain and death in this poem, which only makes the word “clickbait” even more extraordinary. ‘Hello Again’ considers the disconnect and viscera of history, as well as what we look for after it’s gone.

Visit Birdfeast to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Hannah Cohen

Good Creatures, Small Things

short story from Cate Fricke

With the already too-intense sun of Tucson scorching away my reason, I went in search of cool, soft stories of mild climes, and found Cate Fricke’s story instead—a dark tale that dragged me through the thickets to be buried in the snow. Squinting my eyes and looking askance at the story, the slightly old-fashioned and lilting language brought to mind sweet pastorals of a bygone era. But let’s be clear: this is a horror story, an elegant, heartbreaking horror story. Fricke unspools the story into thickening threads of sadness, and will not leave you with much hope. Maybe, like me, after it you’ll just be happy to return to your everyday life, hale and grateful for the reassuring brightness of a blinding hot day.

Visit The Masters Review to read the story.

Contributing Editor / Reneé Bibby

Sài Gòn, 1985

poetry from Thomas Nguyen

This beautiful and succinct poem explores themes of departures and conflict with a single, crisp image. The language is uncomplicated, images colliding in unexpected turns, “withered nails, rusted / sunlight.” There is the strong, underlying sense of humanness, of the quiet and ordinary in a time that is nothing but.

This is a wonderful example of how poetry doesn’t need to be complicated or hectic or breathless for the words to affect us. How descriptive language can be emotive, how an image can pull you in, make you search for the words beneath. I found the last few lines the most affecting for its implication. The narrator as distant, the second person POV as a mirror, reflecting back another’s memory. This poem wonderfully eludes to distance, in its multitude of forms. Between generation, between continents, between time and the faded wear of memory. It’s the sort of poem where the more you look, the more you find within it.

As an aside, I also highly recommend you listen to this conversation between Ocean Vuong and Viet Thanh Nguyen, on similar themes of generational trauma, poetry, stories, and what it is to be Vietnamese-American, how history intertwines with art and lived experience.

Visit Rust + Moth to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / Joyce Chong

Foreign to Oneself

nonfiction from Amanda DeMarco

‘Foreign to Oneself’ by Amanda DeMarco, is an essay on translation, voicelessness, and alienation. It’s comprised entirely of found text from 18 sources, but the reader doesn’t know where one piece of found text fuses into the next. The only manipulation is the replacement of various words and phrases with “translation,” “translator,” and “translate.”

The result is a stunningly gorgeous and seamless meditation. If there’s one quote (a quote of a quote) that gets at the dizzying depth of this piece, it might be this one:

For literature repeats itself. (In 450 b.c., Bacchylides wrote, “One author pilfers the best of another and calls it tradition.”) Likewise the only true reading is re-reading, and homecoming is the flight from flight.

It’s as much a fourth-wall breaking moment as it is a comment on art making as it is a tender moment of lyricism. Using collage to get at a polyvocal quality is a simple idea, but ‘Foreign to Oneself’ takes that idea to such a incredible extreme. It’s how we get this moment of insight into a translator’s work …

For the translator, the book is the world, because what is beyond it does not exist for her; it could not even exist for her. Thus, the difference between reading the world and living in it breaks down and woe to the woman who does not recognise which story she is living in.

… and it’s how we get this triumphant, affirmative call-to-arms near the end: “There is nothing you can throw at me that I cannot metabolize, no thing impervious to my alchemy.”

Visit Asymptote to read the essay.

Contributing Editor / Andrew Sargus Klein

137. Porygon

poetry from Colette Arrand

These dreams are how I pick up my reputation as a liar.

I believe Colette Arrand is one of the most important poets in the community right now. The Georgia-based poet/editor runs The Wanderer, a journal that features queer/trans/femme/gnc poets! Most who know her humorously unique while deftly revelatory subjects (Wrestlers, Pokémon, HGTV & more) are palatable touchstones for the often indescribable reflections Arrand offers readers.

This poem featured in EOAGH, from her series based on Pokémon, is structured between confession & wistful nostalgia. Not a longing for the animated fiction, but the fictions created & manifested for the self. The sentences run on with an interlocking nature, ultimately playing back into themselves though consistently moving the reader forward. Arrand’s work is without pretense yet deeply methodical in voice & subject.

Visit EOAGH to read the poem.

Contributing Editor / jayy dodd