Online Journal from Prague Features Exceptional Work
The journal itself has a pleasingly spare design and is easily navigable. The contributions, in the form of poetry, prose, book reviews and letters, are properly front and center. The right hand bar is filled with links to featured or previously recommended writing. While this is a very easy journal to dip in and out of quickly, a reader could also easily spend hours going through posts spanning the past year, as I did. Publishing on a rolling basis, there is new content to be discovered every couple of days. For simplicity’s sake, this review focuses on what was published during the month of April, 2013.
Poetry appears to be the form most favored by B O D Y editors, with eight of the month’s entries taking that form, in addition to an essay by Robert Archembault on what it means to be a contemporary poet. This focus may result from the three editors of B O D Y being experienced poets themselves. Or perhaps from the fact that April is recognized as National Poetry Month in the United States and Canada, though this is not explicitly mentioned.
With new content appearing almost daily, as far as I can tell no overarching theme is adhered to. This makes each new foray into B O D Y a surprise in both style and content. For example, three rondeaux by John W. Evans, collectively entitled “Enkidu”, take the Mesopotamian epic poem of Gilgamesh as their inspiration. Using the French renaissance poetic form, Evans creates three rather charming character studies based on characters from the original epic. “Gilgamesh”, one of the rondeaux, begins:
I snap trunks, scrap cities, pound beers. I best men half my years and twice as big. What virtue astounds my big heart? I bound my gypsies in wolf and camel hairs.
In way of contrast to this formal style are poems like Julie Maclean’s “Je Suis.” In free verse and a kind of franglais, she writes rather unsettlingly of “…a friend, a Francophile / who beat me up in a tent / near Bordeaux / … Nutter, Twat / I don’t know / the French for that.”
Among the prose contributions is a Russian short story, newly translated by Moscow-based Nathalie Roy. “The Green Bird” by Vlas Doroshevich, the pre-revolutionary Russian writer, is a delightful fable set in the Persian court. It opens with the Grand Vizier Mughabedzi proclaiming that punishing people for their evil deeds is remarkably stupid, when the true evil resides in people’s minds. Their deeds are merely reflections of thoughts that have taken root. Of course, there is a trickster character who claims he can help the Grand Vizier with this difficulty, providing parrots for every household, so the evil thoughts men harbor and utter only at home may be revealed. As is the way with fables, this one ends with a twist in the tail that suitably protects the people against the tyranny of autocratic rule and exposes the tyrant as a fool.
Perhaps my favorite short story among the April contributions is “The Blake Precept” by Hungarian writer, Sándor Jászberényi, translated by M. Henderson Ellis. It takes place in Abeche, Chad, during the Darfur conflict, when a dust-storm grounded all flights out and confined a visiting journalist to a French Legion base. There he hears the haunting story of Captain Sam Blake and his visit to a ghost-rider (a man who could allow his body to be taken over by a rather prescient ghost) and his visit’s unintended consequences.
Following their mandate to showcase good work, every week B O D Y publishes its Friday Picks. These are book reviews and recommendations of a variety of authors, both up-and-coming and established. Friday Picks may include debut poetry collections, Polish crime novels recently translated into English or spoken word performances of writers who perhaps are not as well-known as they deserve to be.
The writers represented here are an impressive lot, many with several books under the belts and publication credits in reputable journals. They form a truly international group, coming from Hungary, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, as well as places closer to home, like Canada and the United States.
B O D Y has become one of my new favorite journals. It brings together an international artistic community, highlighting some truly exceptional work.