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Lake Winnipesaukee or the Gulf of Finland? Hint: there is a noticeable lack of mountains in the background as well as boaters ignoring the no wake zone.

Friends and I sometimes joke that we don’t always see the point in traveling, because we’re lucky enough to live in New Hampshire. We have lakes and mountains, summer and winter sports, good food, good beer, and good music. Why go anywhere else? And yet I am thrilled to be here in Finland–why? I have to admit it might have something to do with feeling as though I’ve found New Hampshire’s soulmate, particularly now that I’ve headed to the north country of Rovaniemi, Lapland.

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Yep, plenty of lumber in Lapland (northern Finland), but this is spruce, not pine.

But it’s not just a mutual affection for hiking and hard rock, sensible footwear and plaid. It’s also a shared self-deprecating and somewhat dark worldview that comes from living in a land where winter all too often overstays its welcome.

For example, one of my favorite new Finnish words I learned from one of my favorite new Finnish blogs is morkkis or moral hangover. Its the feeling you have when something you did the night before makes you so embarrassed you regret your whole existence. There’s also a terrific Finnish cartoonist, Matti, who’s created a series of Finnish Nightmares, which usually involve such horrors as salespeople who insist on asking if you need help or strangers who smile at you and try to make small talk in an elevator. These are my people.

Below are just a few other significant ways I’ve found Finland so simpatico with New Hampshire. . .

Brake for moose! We revere and respect our wildlife even when they stop traffic. I must say reindeer are much less skittish (or more foolish?) than white-tailed deer, perhaps because they’re herding animals maintained by the Sami people and so less afraid of humans. On a one-hour trip in the north country, you can expect reindeer to block the road at least 3-4 times, and they are not in a hurry to move. In NH we flash our brights to warn drivers there are cops ahead–here, it’s the sign for reindeer in the road.

We love our dogs! Dogs are everywhere here, big and little. A few more corgis and dachshunds than black labs, but LOTS of huskies, plus some beautiful shepherd varieties that are unique to the Nordics. One big difference? Unlike America, dogs here are welcome in more places, like cafes, shopping malls, and public transportation. Oh, to be a dog in Finland.

We also love motorcycles, even though you can’t drive them most of the year, four-wheelers (which are street-legal in Finland!), berry picking, fishing, and drinking a little more than we should. Why haven’t we gotten together sooner? Why aren’t there direct flights from Manchester to Helsinki? It’s never too late . . .

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Not a single to-go cup . . .

After a few days walking the streets of Helsinki, I began noticing something strange . . . whether people are walking, driving, or taking public transportation, there is a conspicuous lack of travel mugs, to-go cups, and those huge Dunkin’s iced coffees. I saw a water bottle here and there, and more than a few cans of beer or cider consumption in the parks (it is legal after all), but no coffee.

IMG_1106Yet the coffee here is some of the best I’ve had; plus, Finland leads the world in coffee consumption per capita; some studies claim the average Finn drinks up to a liter and a half a day. That’s a staggering 50 ounces, an amount made more astounding since they’re not consuming it on the go. I set out to determine how, where, and why the Finns manage to drink so much.

  1. Prohibition. When Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917 (Happy 100th Birthday Free Finland!), the new government wanted freedom not just from Russian rule, but also Russian vodka. Alcohol was banned, and while the country dealt with a similar period of lawlessness like America did during almost the same time, prohibition also gave rise to coffee culture where guests were treated to coffee rather than booze or beer.
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    Even giraffes at the Zoological Institute of Helsinki drink coffee.

    Friends in High Places. Rumor has it that Urho Kekkonen, Finland’s president from 1956-1982 (yes, that is ridiculously long to be “president,” but that’s a topic for another time), pushed legislation through regulating that coffee beans be more lightly roasted, and thus less bitter than the dark-roasted Russian beans Finns had been forced to drink thus far. Even Henry Kissinger mentions Kekkonen’s love for coffee in his memoirs, while also claiming Brezhnev hated the stuff. Cold War or Coffee War?

  3. Water. Finland is renowned for terrific water. There are even signs in public bathrooms letting you know it’s okay to drink the tap water; it’s that good. Anyone who makes coffee on their own knows how vital it is to begin with good water.
  4. Treats. As coffee became part of the fabric of Finnish life, kahvi ja pulla (coffee and a bun) became a standard in the workplace, when hosting guests at home, and now in the cafe. Pastries I’ve tried thus far are the korvapuusti, which is a tidy little cinnamon bun, and the mustikkapiirakka (yes, I just pointed when I requested that one in the cafe), which is basically a blueberry kolache or danish. Yum.
  5. Cafés Instead of Take Aways. There are even more cafés within walking distance than there are record shops, and people linger with their coffee instead of just refueling on the run. While it might have more to do with summertime–maybe in winter everyone carries a to-go mug for warming the fingers as well as the belly–I prefer to think it has more to do with taking the time to enjoy a cup (or 10) and relaxing before the caffeine kicks in.

So I’ve determined Finns don’t need travel mugs because they prefer savoring a drink they’ve spent more than a century perfecting. . . and I also have determined that I both endorse and hope to emulate their efforts. Kippis!

IMG_1139The entryway to our apartment in Helsinki has a plaque to the left of the door, which reads:

Blueslengenda Eddie Boyd

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(Blues legend Eddie Boyd lived in this house from 1971-1994)

At first I confused Boyd in my head with Eddie Floyd, who sang one of my favorite soul tunes from the sixties, “Big Bird,” but Eddie Boyd was a Mississippi bluesman signed with the famous Chicago Chess Records who played with Chess greats Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson, and who later toured with Waters, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and the early, more bluesy, incarnation of Fleetwood Mac (thanks YouTube and Wiki).

downloadWhy move to Finland? Any American who reveres the blues knows that however dedicated we are to this music, Europeans have proven more dedicated, particularly with their wallets, and particularly when it comes to African-American blues artists. Boyd’s move to Finland in 1971 was in part financial—he could make a living as an artist—but he also said he moved to escape the racism of America. A shameful truth. And while there is audio of Boyd playing his hit, most YouTube versions are from Eric Clapton, John Mayer, et al.

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I admit to feeling a collective guilt that Boyd had to move to Finland for respect and income, but I also feel staying where he lived was an auspicious beginning to the trip, reinforced by the fun and fantastic music I’ve heard from the apartment window since we arrived. There are two charming and different bars within earshot, and they both represent just some of the musical delights Finland has to offer.

The first is Tenho, a low-key and classy club, and second is Tennka, a dive karaoke bar. Both are directly across the street from the apartment, separated only by an Alko shop, the state-owned liquor store. This means there’s almost always activity inside and also outside, with people openly drinking from pints of vodka or very large cans of beer (here they’re called long drinks instead of tall boys).

The first night, I heard the most amazing music coming from Tenho. I’d seen the band unloading their gear from a taxi the afternoon we arrived and I was intrigued. Keyboard, drums, trumpet, gargantuan bass. What were they up to? Unable to sleep, I was transfixed by the Chet Baker infused jazz that came through my window later that night. The horn was so amazing, I looked them up the next day. Kudos to trumpeter Mikko Karjalainen and the Gunu Jazz Quartet.

IMG_1121The next night? Classic rock karaoke from Tennka, where I listened from my window and played name that tune to a group of guys singing at the top of their lungs. Karaoke is super popular in Finland, not just in bars throughout the country, but even some libraries as well.  From across the street I could easily make out an eclectic set list: “Born To Be Wild,” “Let The Sun Shine In,” and Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” The Finns have a reputation for being even more reserved than us folks from New Hampshire, and that’s definitely been my experience thus far, but just like the Northeast, you give us a beer or three and some good tunes and we can let loose.

But it’s not just the sing-a-long that’s huge here–Helsinki really takes music to the next level. Just within a few blocks of the apartment I’ve come across no less than five used record and CD shops, two large shops selling instruments and sheet music, and one shop that specializes in custom-built amplifiers.

However, the most terrific music discovery I made came from TV; the apartment has the Finnish version of basic cable, which basically means there’s a lot of American and British and Finnish reality TV, Scandinavian crime shows, and then a weird hodgepodge of old movies, music, and documentaries. After a show that I’m pretty sure was about Finnish furniture design, then a documentary on British band The Jam, I came across an open-air concert of the Ricky-Tick Big Band, a Finnish group that plays a crazy wonderful mix of hip-hop jazz that completely took me by storm. Holy Moly these guys are fun. I think Eddie Boyd (and for that matter Eddie Floyd) would approve.

IMG_1036Why Finland? Many friends asked this question when I shared where Emi and I would be for a large part of our summer. Frankly, as soon as I arrived, I only wish I’d thought to come sooner! Finland is fantastic, for reasons I hope this, and future dispatches, will delve into more fully.

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First, Emi is studying linguistics at UNH; through her I have glimpsed the marvelous way that languages overlap and evolve. Second, while Emi has formally studied French, German, and Japanese, she also has long been interested in the culture and languages of Scandinavian and Nordic countries; without me, Em has traveled to Iceland, Norway, and Denmark. When Emi said she wanted to travel to Finland, in part to attend Worldcon, the 75th World Science Fiction convention, I decided this time I would tag along.

downloadMany of you are probably familiar with Comic-Con International, held every year in San Diego, best known as the place where rabid fans can geek out to the creators, actors, and artists who produce the multimedia starring whichever comic book characters they most connect with. Costumes are encouraged.

images-2Worldcon is similar, and there’s a lot of overlap, but the focus is intended to be on the art forms–film, graphic novels, literature, games (both board and computer)–that fall under the science fiction/fantasy umbrella. Yeah, that covers a LOT. Game of Thrones, Dungeons and Dragons, the films of Hayao Miyazaki, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, the cheesetastic Supernatural, plus Tolkien, Le Guin, L’Engle,  . . . the offerings are wonderfully endless. And yes, costumes are encouraged.

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A Finnish genderbent Doctor Who – her scarf took a month to make.

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A group cosplay of the webcomic Scandinavia and the World, which anthropomorphizes the world’s nations.

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Two blacksmiths from Oulu, Finland showcase their weapons. After hours, the forge is used to barbecue ribs.

Having only been to literature conferences, most of which were somewhat dry and uptight (no costumes because we take ourselves oh, so seriously), I have loved going with Emi and wandering around the venue with people who don’t just read these books and watch these shows, they shamelessly devour them. I’m not an attendee so only Em is going to panels–with names like “On the Care and Feeding of Secondary Characters,” and “Golems and Flying Carpets,” and a film showing and discussion of Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues, where the featured speaker was David Peterson, the linguist who created Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones. Check out the trailer, and not just for Jason Momoa:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/219368643″>Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues trailer</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/conlanging”>Conlanging</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Next year’s Worldcon is in San Jose, California; I’m thinking that gives me a whole year to work on my Captain Kathryn Janeway costume. . . until then I’ll leave you with Emi’s creation: Nausicaä from Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind; she’s posing with Worldcon mascot, Major Ursa. Yes, of course puns are encouraged as well as costumes.

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Hello from Helsinki!  It took about twelve solid hours for Emi and me to get from New Hampshire to our little apartment on Helsinginkatu Street, and once we had some much-needed shut-eye, we headed out for supplies.

We began at the open-air Hakaniemi Market, about a 10-minute walk away; markets like these are scattered throughout the city and are generally open at least a couple times a week. A few stalls are creperies and cafes, a few sell knick-knacks and souvenirs, and the rest sell bread, cheese, and the most delightful produce.

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My first discovery, which you can see here nestled between berries and sugar snap peas, is that my favorite mushroom, the chanterelle, is considered the national mushroom of Finland. The wonderfully mild and delicate chanterelle can be foraged from New Hampshire forests, but they are rare–I still remember the one time I found a tiny cluster while hiking in North Sandwich near my friend Holly’s cabin. Hadn’t seen them in the wild before, haven’t seen them since.

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So I usually forage for chanterelles from my favorite mushroom hunters at the NH Mushroom Company when I get up to the farmer’s market in Tamworth, and their rarity means they tend to go for more than $20 a pound. In Finland they cost half that, and they’re EVERYWHERE. Even better, I discovered that research is underway at Aalto University in Helsinki to cultivate chanterelles, a feat previously considered impossible! NH Mushroom Co., will you please try next?

It was when I checked out the S-Market grocery store without the consult of my linguist daughter, that imagesmy illiteracy in Finnish took its toll. Buying produce, bread, and cheese is fairly straightforward; what you see is what you get. Walking the aisles of the S-Market, there was a smattering of English, but more often I was relegated to deciphering the pictures on the package or the etymology of the words, with limited success. As my linguist daughter could tell you, this has much to do with the fact that, unlike English, Finnish is neither Germanic nor Latinate so there’s not a lot of overlap. Here’s the start of my market basket:

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I started off easy: the puddings were English, the salad container had pictures of cuke slices, and I picked out the word risotto on the middle package, so I figured I’d be okay. And with the exception of the risotto also containing lemon and chicken (thankfully I’m not veg) and the cuke salad being pickled rather than fresh, I was okay. With the below items however, I went slightly awry.

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The top left package has a tasty picture of what I thought was some version of pad thai–rice noodles, peas, and little chunks of tofu in what I imagined would be a savory fusion-type tomato sauce. However, the box contained only tofu chunks, with some kind of Italian-based seasoning as far as I could tell. Emi figured the picture was a suggestion of what one could make with the little basil-infused tofu bits.

And no, the bottom left package is not butter, but some butter-type product, which, if I hadn’t been so jet-lagged, I might have known due to the fact that butter does not have those healthy Omegas, just good ole butterfat, which is why I like it. Actually, though, it’s pretty tasty–much better than any margarine I’ve had. Any guesses for bottom right? Pita bread? WRONG. It is fried cheese with a tiny container of cloudberry jam, which I might have suspected since I did buy it from the cold case, though the cold case was directly across from the bread! So close and yet so far away!

For the rest of our stay, whether in the grocery or the cafe, I plan to cultivate a healthy anticipation for the unknown and play Finnish Food Roulette. Just this morning, Emi and I had breakfast at the Cafe Cardemumma where the only word on the menu I recognized was latte (other than cardemumma, of course, which I sincerely hope is cardemom). So I ordered a latte, then pointed to one of the three specials, not quite brave enough to sound anything out.

WP_20130606_004“Oh, I’m sorry,” the barista said, brilliantly intuiting I spoke no Finnish, “we’re all out of the porridge.” Ah, porridge, I thought, that’s what that was. I pointed to the next special on the list. “Omelette?” she said. “With?” “Ham?” I said, “cheese?” “Both?” she asked, and I panicked. Was it improper to order more than one filling for an omelette in Finland? Was I over the top? “Yes?” I said meekly. “Okay then,” she answered, then took Emi’s order of salmon quiche (quiche is quiche is quiche no matter what language you speak apparently).

Our breakfast was delicious, the latte the best I’ve ever had, in part due to my gratefulness at the barista’s kindness and complete lack of condescension at my ignorant American helplessness. Emboldened by the wonderful food and invigorating latte, I tried out my first Finnish word on her when we left. “Kiitos,” I said. Thanks.

 

 

 

 

Piscataqua_River_Bridge_01Piscataqua Press is a unique publishing project operating out of RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. RiverRun Bookstore, managed by Tom Holbrook, is a hub of the literary community north of Boston, hosting at least a hundred readings and events each year; Piscataqua Press, also managed by Holbrook, utilizes the latest print-on-demand technology to publish a variety of titles.

Along with a small selection of titles that were published via the traditional editorial process, such as Denis Lipman’s Striking Terror, a YA thriller set in the Middle East, and The Unquiet Daughter, a fascinating memoir by Danielle Flood, “a New York journalist, born of the true wartime love triangle that inspired the one in Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American,” Piscataqua also publishes a handful of classics, plus “pay to publish” titles that run the gamut from children’s books to poetry to a wide range of fiction and nonfiction. In addition, Piscataqua operates a book prize that changes genre yearly—in 2016 the press accepted entries for novels—with a reading fee of $50.

For Ploughshares, Tom Holbrook shares his motivation for beginning the press, how selections are made, and what he thinks are the editorial responsibilities of working with “pay to publish” titles.

Kate Flaherty: Running an independent bookstore alone is tricky enough financially. What made you decide to begin a press as well? And how do you think print-on-demand technology has changed the financial picture for publishers as well as bookstores?

Tom Holbrook: I think most indie bookstores that are surviving are doing something in addition to selling books. Either they have cafes, or sell a lot of card and gift products, etc. For me, the publishing fit my skill set better (I’m NOT a good gift/card buyer!!). We had a good friend of the store who was familiar with this kind of publishing, turned us onto it, and it has worked out well. It’s particularly nice in the off-season here to have something constructive to work on when you’re not shoveling snow. New technologies make it possible to get into this business with a very low capital investment.

KF: Although there are plenty of success stories regarding self-published authors, there remains a stubborn stigma about the literary quality of “pay to publish” books. What are your thoughts on Piscataqua’s role in this type of publishing?

TH: This stigma exists mostly with literary fiction, and I don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. We are snobs, and we want it to say Knopf on the spine or to be reviewed in the NYT Book Review. But there are a lot of independent authors doing very well in genre fiction and other niche markets. Folks who read heavily in this area have always felt marginalized, and they don’t mind taking a chance on a book that has good Amazon or Goodreads reviews, even if it’s from an unknown publisher. Plus, a lot of what we do is truly what has been called “vanity” publishing—a family memoir or regional cookbook that is never going to be marketable, but is important to the person creating it. We make them a great-looking book without ripping them off. They are grateful, and we make money that we can use to support the bookstore and to publish other things we are excited about.

KF: You have no masthead for the press. What’s the editorial process for selecting manuscripts at Piscataqua? Who screens prize entries? How do you make your final decisions?

TH: Right now it’s all me. As we grow, that will likely change. I have some in-house help with design, and occasionally will hire an outside editor, but all the final decisions are mine. I say “We” a lot because it makes us seem bigger than we are, and it makes me feel not so alone. . .

KF: Along with publishing classics like James Joyce’s Dubliners and Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, Piscataqua also publishes the local classic Among the Isles of Shoals by Celia Thaxter. Do you see the press publishing more local titles like this? What else should readers expect from Piscataqua in the near future?

TH: We started that originally to keep our hand in the publishing between paid contracts, and recently we’ve been way too busy to get back to it. That said, I’d like to do Sarah Orne Jewett and a few other local greats. I’m also interested in doing more local history and photography if the opportunity is right. This entire endeavor has been unscripted, unplanned, and surprising. Add to that the fact that the technology keeps evolving, and who knows what we will be up to next. That’s part of the fun.

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Islandport Press of Yarmouth, Maine was founded by Dean Lunt in 1999 with the goal of publishing books that “capture and explore the grit, heart, beauty, and infectious spirit of the region by telling tales, real and imagined, rooted in the sense and sensibilities of New England.”

In the past fifteen years, Islandport has produced an impressive range of titles, from memoir to mystery, humor to travel, cooking, children’s books, and young adult novels. In addition to breadth, Islandport books have depth. Their authors include John Ford, Sr., whose books Suddenly the Cider Didn’t Taste So Good andThis Cider Still Tastes Funny are collections of funny, heart-warming, and sometimes heart-breaking tales of his experiences as a Maine game warden and sheriff; Kate Christensen, whose How to Cook a Moose, winner of the Maine Literary Award for Memoir, is a mouth-watering and thought-provoking story of the culinary challenges and discoveries she faced when moving to Maine from Brooklyn; and photojournalist David Hill, who gathered stories and photos of the beautiful old beaten-up cars and trucks scattered through the northern woods of New England for his Full Service: Notes from the Rearview Mirror.

After sixteen years, Islandport has more than a hundred titles in print, all of which are carefully designed and handsomely produced. For Ploughshares, publisher Dean Lunt shares the inspiration behind Islandport Press, the qualities specific to an Islandport author, and what readers and writers can look for in the near future.

Kate Flaherty: There are other presses in New England publishing regional literature, memoir, humor and the like, so I have to ask what your motivation was for starting Islandport? What was the marketplace missing that you wanted Islandport to provide?

Dean Lunt: At the time, I didn’t necessarily think anything was missing, but I did feel there was room for more quality regional books. I felt given my heritage as a Maine island native and a journalist, as well as someone with a keen interest in the heritage and history of Maine, that I could help bring an authentic literary voice to marketplace and find people with real and compelling stories that weren’t being told. Even though we were a small press, we also focused on excellent design from the beginning to help establish a quality look and feel to our books.

Click here to read the rest.

My latest up at Ploughshares:

BkMk

In 1971, BkMk Press was founded by Dan Jaffe, English professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Roy Fox, head librarian of the Johnson County Library system in Kansas. Jaffe headed the press for 25 years, overseeing its transition from publishing only chapbooks to building a list with full-length collections of poetry, short fiction, creative essays, and a smattering of anthologies. Upon Jaffe’s retirement, James McKinley became executive editor, and now BkMk Press is helmed by executive editor Robert Stewart and managing editor Ben Furnish.

BkMk runs two annual contests, the G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction and the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, both of which award $1,000 and publication of a book-length manuscript, and they also considerunsolicited submissions from Feb 1 through June 30 via snail mail only.

Housed at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, BkMk is affiliated with New Letters, a literary magazine with a long history of publishing a remarkable range of notable writers that is also edited by Robert Stewart, as well as the radio program “New Letters on the Air,” which features writers reading and discussing their work and is the longest continuously running national literary radio series.

BkMk has a commitment to regional writers, in part through its Target Series for Midwestern writers, but their list includes writers from all over the United States and abroad. Just a few of their award-winning titles are Lauren Cobb’s Boulevard Women, an engaging book of linked stories set in Athens, Georgia about female friends who span generations yet come together over their all-too-similar challenges, Tongue of War by Tony Barnstone, an ambitious and affecting collection of poems “inspired by historical situations and accounts, letters, oral histories, and news reports of individuals from both sides of the Pacific theater of World War II,” and, most recently, Gary Gildner’s delightful and sweet short fiction collection The Capital of Kansas City, stories of love in its messy and myriad incarnations.

For readers and writers, Robert Stewart and Ben Furnish share what drives their editorial decisions and what’s in store at BkMk and New Letters in the foreseeable future.

KF: In an interview with South Carolina Review, you discuss how you prefer writing that “offers hope,” which seems like both a wonderful and difficult mission for an editor. How would you describe the process of discovering “hope” in a manuscript you’ve published?

Click here to read the rest.

Elie Wiesel

July 3, 2016

 

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In 1995, I went with my friend Tami to a lecture by Elie Wiesel at Fremont High School in Fremont, Nebraska, a small town about an hour north of Lincoln on Highway 77. At the time I worked for a literary magazine at the University of Nebraska, and most of my friends, like Tami, were fellow grad students in English. Young and earnest, we spent our time reading books, talking about books, and going to readings and lectures.

But Elie Wiesel was no ordinary author and scholar; he’d been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize less than a decade before, and his novels, essays, and memoirs are imbued with a wisdom, strength, and generosity that transcended most of anything I’d read or heard or seen. Truthfully, why he was even in Fremont speaking to a few hundred of us that night remains a mystery to me. A year later, he spoke in Lincoln to a crowd of thousands.

His lecture that night was beyond instructive and beyond informative; it was inspiring and electric, full of energy and hope. When he finished, Tami and I just sat, as if we couldn’t leave until the last echo from his words had finally faded from the room.

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I brought my favorite book of his that night–Twilight, the first novel he wrote after being awarded the Nobel–and I used its flyleaves to feverishly recorded everything I could. I pulled the book out this morning and thought I’d transcribe some of what Wiesel said. As the world continues to fracture under fanaticism, we need to remember, to witness, to dialogue, and to do our best to live by words such as these.

 

Elie Wiesel, Fremont, Nebraska, March 30, 1995:

“In 1945 there was a great optimism that good had triumphed over evil. I believed that anti-semitism died, that racism died. . . that there would be no wars. Have we learned anything? That evil is emerging again.”

“The Holocaust is so powerful, it affects everything we do. There was so much hate then, we’re still feeling the fallout today.”

“The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. We must fight fanaticism and indifference. When you’re a fanatic, you have no more problems, no more questions. The fanatic has no patience for dialogue, and when a fanatic has power, he can be very convincing. The fanatic believes it is his right to conquer.”

“In a world that it meaningless, we must endow it with meaning.”

“Whatever the answer is, I believe that education is the component. Whatever subject you learn, it must have a moral dimension. When you read a text, you must resist it, challenge it. Never learn alone, never study alone. You don’t just need a teacher, you need a friend.”

“What is morality, but dialogue? We define morality and humanity not through our relationship with God, but our relationship with other people. So how do we define relationships? We must know what pains one another in order to relate. We can’t take their suffering on, but we can be present to witness. I don’t understand the silence of the world. Our task is to bear witness. We need to see. Whenever some force contemplates genocide, we must organize.”

“We must open our hearts to someone who is ‘not me.’ Decartes was wrong; it’s you think therefore I am.”

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My latest up at Ploughshares:

canarium

With assistance from the University of Michigan, Canarium Books formed in 2008 out of the journal The Canary, which had been founded by writers Joshua Edwards, Anthony Robinson, and Nick Twemlow. Now based in Marfa, Texas under the collective editorship of Joshua Edwards, Nick Twemlow, Robyn Schiff, andLynn Xu, Canarium publishes three to four collections of poetry or poetry in translation every year.

Canarium Books has compiled a carefully curated catalogue showing a breadth of vision in the style and content of its titles, as well as a commitment to its authors, many of whom are on their second book with the press. Titles include John Beer’s The Waste Land and Other Poems, a collection as intellectually ambitious as it is delightfully down-to-earth, Darcie Dennigan’s sharply crafted and many layered Madame X, and The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa, translated by Sawako Nakayasu.

Sagawa, described by the New Yorker as “one of the most innovative and prominent avant-garde poets in early-twentieth-century Japan,” had virtually disappeared from the cultural map until Canarium published Nakayasu’s translations. The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa was recently awarded the 2016 PEN prize for poetry in translation.

For the Ploughshares blog, Joshua Edwards will share what makes Canarium tick, and provide prospective Canarium authors some guidance on how to get added to their esteemed author list.

KF: The press was founded in Michigan and now is based in Marfa, Texas, a location giving new meaning to the term “middle of nowhere,” while also being a ridiculously unique cultural mecca. While not all of your editorial staff resides in Marfa, how does the location contribute to and complement Canarium’s vision?

JE: Lynn and I have been living in Marfa on and off for the past four years, but only recently did we finishbuilding a house and settle here, so the town’s relationship to the press is really just beginning. It’s a hard place to accurately depict, so much is lost in the telling, but I guess the intensity of the visions that help define this town and the place’s ability to transform despite self-awareness are characteristics that Marfa and Canarium have in common.

At its heart, Canarium is an ongoing conversation between the editors, informed by friendship, reading, and the books we’ve published. In that way each book we publish becomes a deputy editor, and perhaps the places we’ve been have been editors as well.

Thinking of it, Marfa has suggested a few recent editorial projects. I work at the bookstore here, Marfa Book Company, which has its own imprint run by Tim Johnson, and we’ll soon be publishing (perhaps in collaboration with Canarium) an anthology of poems written with West Texas in mind. Also, Lynn has startedLiang Editions, a press that’s going to occasionally publish all sorts of things: portfolios, boxes, books, prints. There’s a wonderful sense of possibility out here, and I imagine we’ll think more and more beyond the page going forward.

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