by Cassidy McCants
You might have seen our recent call for submissions for next spring’s thematic issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, inspired by an effort in Tulsa to bring together diverse groups at a new public park called A Gathering Place. In the call we’ve quoted John Dewey: “The local is the only universal, upon that all art builds.” It’s true, isn’t it?
We at Nimrod agree—and, in connection with this theme and a new partnership with The Tulsa Voice, recently in the office we’ve gone back to the Spring/Summer 1985 issue of Nimrod, Tulsa/Tbilisi (28.2), which includes poetry and fiction by writers from Tulsa and from Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia. The issue is dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts (it’s a fitting time to return to this issue, I think, as NEA funding is being threatened today) and the 25th anniversary of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, two organizations that have shown Nimrod support and encouragement throughout the years. (We were housed at the Council for many years before returning to TU.)
In the issue’s Editor’s Note, Francine Ringold offers some connections between Tulsa and Tbilisi: both are warm most of the year; both deserve to be “recognized on their own merit”; and the past and the present are uniquely important in these cities—“In Tulsa and Tbilisi we peer down through the years, from modern to historic in architecture, language and literature, and witness an enduring core of cultural pride.”
Some highlights by Tulsa natives and locals in Tulsa/Tbilisi:
Ivy Dempsey’s “Remembering Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor”
Carol Haralson’s “Anna John Counts out the Biscuit Flour”
Manly Johnson’s “The Dream”
Markham Johnson’s “On the Road” (Mark went on to win the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, judged by Robin Coste Lewis, in 2016)
Daniel Marder’s “Valia”
Mary McAnally’s “Our Work”
Alice L. Price’s “Twice-Born”
Renata Treitel’s “Brides of Bohemia”
Winston Weathers’s “Little Boy Lost”
Ruth D. Weston’s “The Mark of the Plow”
Ann Zoller’s “The Privacy of Corn”
“Mother of God, Dushenka / I tell you
this / you work your life / you have
The story had been told of this man
who walked on water, a cat
that crouched and sprang 15 feet straight up,
an old woman who levitated.
John said he’d have to see it to believe it.
I said he’d have to believe it to see it.
Jorge painted a picture
of an old man whose flesh fell off in folds,
like molten wax or icing on a cake.
He called it “age”
and claims it’s very real.
I read John a poem about the Indian belief
that our souls enter and leave our bodies
through a hole in the top of our heads.
John asked how we could support ourselves
doing that kind of art.
We have nothing but our work.
We have nothing but our work
and each other
and the holes in the tops of our heads,
John, the holes in the tops of our heads.
The issue also features an interview by Julie Christensen with Georgian film directors Lana Gogoberidze, Georgi Shengelaya, Eldar Shengelaya, and Rezo Chkeidze; “The ‘Knight’ Goes English,” an article by Venera Urushadze originally published in Soviet Literature; “The Culinary Art of Georgia: Sour Plums, Poetry, and an Open Flame” by Darra Goldstein (with Georgian recipes!); poetry and fiction by Georgian authors—Liana Sturua, Lia Sturua, Jansug Tcharkviani, Murman Lebanidze, Nomar Dumbadze—with translations by Shota Nishnianidze, Vladimir Babishvili, Peter Tempest, and Valentina Jacque; and more.
You haven’t seen my hands,
My eyes and my shoulders—
Crazy about white horses
And the far-away sound of bells.
You haven’t seen my fogs,
Brought from the mountains on hawks’ wings,
How filled with the white winds
Are the days, blue like the body of the Christ.
You haven’t seen the remoteness of the fresco,
Color of the fire-bird, color of wild pigeons,
How the scent of chrism is absorbing
The old walls of my body.
You haven’t seen—come and see!—
That this temple is my body, that my body is this temple!
I am your house of virtue,
I am your house of obedience,
I am the Betania of your body . . .
Translated by Shota Nishnianidze with Manly Johnson
¹Betania—a church near Tbilisi, built in the XII century with XIII century frescoes.
²Saba—Saba-Sulhan Orbeliani, a prominent writer and public figure of XVIII century in Georgia.
The local is the only universal—recently Nimrod has teamed up with The Tulsa Voice in a search for flash fiction and poetry by Tulsa-area (or Tulsa-connected) writers. We’ll select flash fiction of up to 500 words and poetry of no more than 40 lines in length to be shared in the pages of The Tulsa Voice. After going back to the Tulsa/Tbilisi issue and seeing notable work by numerous Tulsa writers, I’m especially eager to see what we receive for consideration in this category. I know Tulsans have a lot to say—Fran also celebrates in her Editor’s Note from 1985 that Tulsa writers “seem to demonstrate, like the Georgians, an openness, a desire to speak out.”
Let us gather; let us speak out.
Order past issues of Nimrod here. Limited copies of Tulsa/Tbilisi (28.2) available. (Select “Single Issue” and type in the title and/or volume number of the issue you’d like.)
More information about spring/summer 2018’s Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, including instructions for submission, can be found here.
Guidelines for The Tulsa Voice flash fiction and poetry submissions can be found here. (Writers must be living in Tulsa or the surrounding area or have strong emotional ties to Tulsa to submit.)
Cassidy McCants, an Associate Editor of Nimrod, is an M.F.A. candidate in fiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts.