Speaking Volumes

MailboxI was walking my dogs this afternoon, hobbled on a turned ankle and grimacing every time I twisted my arthritic wrist when I stopped to get the mail out of the mailbox. Surprise! There was a modest, tightly wrapped package waiting for me. Nowadays unexpected packages are exciting but inevitably contain mail-order meds or supplies. But this time when I got back in the house and ripped the package open, I was extremely pleased to find the latest issue of my favorite literary journal, Conjunctions.

Conjunctions 63: Speaking Volumes is introduced by the editor, Bradford Morrow:

Books are, to those who live and breathe them, all but sentient fellow beings. When a book is closed, it is asleep. Perhaps dreaming, inspired by its reposing words and images. But when a book is opened, it awakens, vaults to life,and interacts with the reader, collapsing time and bridging space. Even the most modest book is by far the finest transportation device ever invented and can carry its reader to every corner of the cosmos. Once closed again, however, it never fully returns to sleep but remains in the reader’s imagination.

If, as Cormac McCarthy proposed, books come from books, then the volume in your hands comes from writers who have considered the myriad ways in which that process occurs. It is a gathering of essays, poems, stories, and unclassifiable works that examine what books mean to those of us who deeply depend on then. Every book ever written, from classics and epics to personal diaries to, yes, literary journals, is something of a secular tabernacle that houses not only the history of thought but of life itself—and death. And, as readers of Speaking Volumes will quickly discover, each writer’s voice here explores the book in unexpectedly different ways. Factual memoirs are nestled alongside faux histories. Translations of invented lyrics find themselves alongside narratives that investigate the origins of how writing is read and how writers come to write.

If indeed reading is a kind of writing—in the collaborative readers recreate the signifiers and images on the silent printed page as vivid, even vocal, personal imagery and meaning—Speaking Volumes might be seen as a notebook that invites meditation on just how that happens. On how daily engagement with the book enlightens daily lives

I’ve started reading Speaking Volumes even though there are at least four books that I had to put aside for now. This is a very rich and intriguing issue that has something for everybody. If you do not subscribe to Conjunctions yourself, pop over to the website and see what’s going on. It’s easy to subscribe and being a semi-annual journal, you too can find a unexpected package in your mailbox every six months.

Here is the table of contents from this newest issue of Conjunction 63: Speaking Volumes:

  • conj63aSamuel R. Delany, From Eclipse: A Romance
  • Melissa Pritchard, On Bibliomancy, Anthropodermic Bibliopegy, and The Eating Papers; or, Proust’s Porridge
  • Edwidge Danticat, Please Translate
  • Elizabeth Robinson, Four Poems
  • Frederic Tuten, Some Episodes in the History of My Reading
  • Julia Elliott, Bride
  • Paul Hoover, Five Poems
  • Aimee Bender, Three Found Books
  • Robert Kelly, The Book: Prelude, Andante Dolente, and Fantasia
  • Cole Swensen, On Walking On
  • Rikki Ducornet, Brightfellow
  • Emily Anderson, Three Little Novels
  • Nathaniel Mackey, Lone Coast Rescension
  • Laynie Browne, Letters Inscribed in Snow
  • Adam Weinstein, Two Essays
  • Chris Tysh, Ravished
  • Minna Proctor, On Translation’s Inadequacies
  • Eliot Weinberger, Fragments from Lost Zoroastrian Books
  • Edie Meidav, From the Dung Beetle’s Perspective
  • Paul West, Memo to My Muse
  • Ranbir Singh Sidhu, The “Lost” Chapter of John Jourdain
  • Maxine Chernoff, Three Poems
  • Anne Waldman, Offworlds
  • Brandon Hobson, From The Book of a Thousand Deaths
  • Donald Revell, The Watteau Poem
  • Carole Maso, World Book
  • Elaine Equi, Mystery Poem
  • Andrew Mossin, From The Book of Spells
  • Joyce Carol Oates, The Childhood of the Reader
  • Daniel Nadler, From The Lacunae
  • Rebecca Lilly, Rubrics
  • Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Pages from Days and Works
  • Brian Evenson, The Particulars
  • Joanna Scott, The Knowledge Gallery

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