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A leading American literary journal, The Hollins Critic enters its enters its 50th year in 2013 with essays on writers like Michael Parker by Allison Seay, Jamaica Kincaid by James R. Saunders, and Carl Carmer by Duffie Taylor. Plus book reviews and poetry by poets new and established, and cover art by Susan Avishai.
The Hollins Critic, published five times a year, presents the first serious surveys of the whole bodies of contemporary writers' work, with complete checklists. In past issues, you'll find essays on such writers as John Engels (by David Huddle), James McCourt (by David Rollow), Jane Hirshfield (by Jeanne Larsen), Edwidge Danticat (by Denise Shaw), Vern Rutsala (by Lewis Turco), Sarah Arvio (by Lisa Williams) and Milton Kessler (by Liz Rosenberg).
The Hollins Critic also offers brief reviews of books you want to know about and poetry by poets both new and established. And every issue has a cover portrait by Susan Avishai M.A. '02.
"The Music of What Happened: Michael Parker and the Narrative of Desire"
By Allison Seay
To talk about Michael Parker’s prose is to talk about music and to talk about music is to talk about poetry which is, as the critic Helen Vendler says, proof that "the mind continues to understand what the heart cannot endure." For those not familiar with Parker’s work, I offer an introduction to his oeuvre with particular focus on its musicality and style, its contrapuntal, fugue-like composition, its graceful unfurling, its "secret curves," as Isaac Babel might explain it, "between the straight lines of prose."
I’ll begin with a prose poem called "The Everyday Enchantment of Music" by the poet Mark Strand:
A rough sound was polished until it became a smoother sound, which was polished until it became music. Then the music was polished until it became the memory of a night in Venice when tears of the sea fell from the Bridge of Sighs, which in turn was polished until it ceased to be and in its place stood the empty home of a heart in trouble. Then suddenly there was sun and the music came back and traffic was moving and off in the distance, at the edge of the city, a long line of clouds appeared, and there was thunder, which, however menacing, would become music, and the memory of what happened after Venice would begin, and what happened after the home of the troubled heart broke in two would also begin.
Parker’s earliest novels, Hello Down There and its sequel, Towns Without Rivers, are rich and complex, and imaginative, and, if they ever feel overwrought, it is in deference to the lyrical narrative Parker masters. Much as with the work of William Gass, it seems the style—no matter how flamboyant—is always precise. Parker has the same obsessive love affair with language as Gass, and when Gass asserts that his notion of a work of art is not that it is a copy or a representation of reality, but an addition to reality which is intensely human itself, I cannot help but believe Parker’s notion must be similar. His work does, as Gass demands, contain and embody human consciousness at "a high level of refinement." Its refinement might echo, also, Gertrude Stein’s obsession with the relationship of the sentence to the paragraph and her philosophical questions about what the basic unit—and function—of grammar really is. Though Gass warns that "you can’t really talk very sensibly about the content of a sentence out of the context of its use," he does, as I do, believe in the musicality of the form, or “how the forms are interlaced." In Steinian fashion, Parker uses repetition to rearrange the aesthetic grammar and convolute ordinary syntax for the sake of effect, persuasion, lyricism.
Cover portrait © Susan Avishai 2013
The Hollins Critic reads poetry submissions from September 1 to December 15 each year. Poetry must be submitted online to The Hollins Critic. There are no rules about style or subject. One to five poems may be submitted.
The Critic pays $25.00 per poem, upon publication. All rights revert to the author following publication, but if the poem is reprinted elsewhere, the Critic should be credited.
Besides poetry, the Critic publishes an essay on a contemporary author in each issue, and book reviews as space permits. The Critic does not accept unsolicited essays. Rarely do we accept unsolicited book reviews. When a review is published, the author receives a copy of the issue, and two copies are sent to the book's publisher. Only poetry may be submitted online.
The Critic does not publish fiction.