Brit Mandelo wrote a two-piece article -- part one, part two -- for Stone Telling about the poetry of Joanna Russ, which was uncollected and a form that Russ abandoned early in her career. Unsurprisingly, given my historical and poetic interests, this especially jumped out at me:
The last of these three poems, "Queen at Ur," appeared in The Cornell Writer in April '57, presumably after the 11th Festival reading of a different, less polished version. This is a historical/speculative poem, about "The Lady Shub-Ad, lying Dead in Sumer/Five times a thousand years, brick-tombed to dust," who speaks to the reader about the ways in which she is "filled with all events" and "could stretch out a hand to the farthest star." The imagery of space and eternity, of the smallness of time, are stunning in this poem. The poem itself is short, but each word is ultimately necessary and perfect. The ultimate culmination of the young Russ's experiments with diction and a developing precision in her work, "Queen at Ur" is fabulous and resonant. It ends: "Daughter, train your soul for the amenities/That come finally with death. Emulate my corpse."
I certainly want to read the rest.
Still in poetry, I also enjoyed Emily Jiang's article "When Flowers Bloom, When Flowers Fall" about the Tang Dynasty poets Xue Tao and Yu Xuanji: the different ways both women engaged with the poetic conventions of their time.
Speaking of historical women, the recent research reported on the National Geographic website about Amazon women's names being revealed in Greek transcriptions on pottery is very interesting! I can't get at the academic article with my KCL alumnus access, but as soon as I get my Uni of Oxford access -- either by JSTOR or the library stacks -- I'll be reading it. Better academics than I will surely weigh in on the strength of this research, but it looks non-stupid to me. Women called Worthy of Armour, Hot Flanks and Don't Fail -- yes, please.
Jeff VanderMeer's piece "My Wilderness Year" stuck with me as an impression, rather than a direct memory, as I read it while tired (in an airport? on a plane?) -- an impression of the inextricable relationship between fiction and landscape. VanderMeer has talked elsewhere about the real-life inspiration for his Southern Reach novels, and I thought also of Nicola Griffith's Hild, where understanding of the movements of the countryside is intrinsic to Hild's ability to see what is likely to happen, and I remembered walking down Cairn Gorm last year and seeing the biome change around me (and, on the hill behind my hostel in Aviemore, walking through woodlands and suddenly emerging into treeless windswept alpine/sub-tundra(?) land at the top). I'm aware of how much better I ought to know my countryside, after growing up in it, and I'm drawn to fiction -- like Hild -- with that awareness. I like regular buses and shops and all that, but I miss the countryside every day.
I also liked Jeff VanderMeer's conversation with Bronson Pinchot about audiobooks and a lot more.
I read, in Strange Horizons, Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay's "Recentering Science Fiction and the Fantastic", which talks about the differing uses of separating different groups of SFF (eg: Desi SF) or striving towards a greater understanding of SFF that encompasses non-Anglophone works and multiple approaches to SFF across all languages. As Chattopadhyay says at the end: "A non-Anglocentric understanding of science fiction and fantasy would look like a study of science fiction and fantasy, but it would be the result of a different consciousness and have different purposes..." How we talk about marginalised aspects of SFF is of great interest to me, unsurprisingly, but my thoughts on that will wait for another post.
Via Liz Bourke, "Unbalanced Academics, Scribblers, and an 'Odd Christmas'" is rather a comfort: academics who are also writers.
And, last for now, "Grandma’s Misplaced Recipe for Cultural Authenticity" by Pear Nuallak, a personal piece about food, family and recollection.