“The Wall” may conjure an image of the Great Wall of China, or of the we-all-thought-it-was-a-joke wall between Mexico and the USA, or perhaps of the metaphorical wall you ‘hit’ while trying to run a marathon or write a book or complete any massive, daunting task.
All of these seem, at first glance, to be barriers. But are they?
Athletes only mention the wall in order to describe how they broke through it. The Great Wall brings more people from different countries together than any other site in China, and was largely ineffective in keeping first the Mongols and then the Manchurians out.
And it seems little has changed in over 2000 years in what might be termed ‘wall mentality’ – even though the US Border Patrol has famously said, “If you build a 30-foot wall, all it’s going to do is create a market for 31-foot ladders,” this monstrosity seems now to be on the edge of being realized.
So here’s the challenge embodied in today’s walls of separation, of prison, of bombs, of language: How to find the crack?
In his story “Burn,” Murat Özyaşar says, “On the wall hangs a sign that reads, NO SMOKING FINE 72 LIRA. It’s yellow with smoke.” Yes.
In Carmen Firan’s “Darkness Reaches Us,” we see “the mouths of sinners lined up against the wall.” Yes indeed.
Murat Nemet-Nejat speaks of translating poetry: “In reading a foreign text, the translator experiences something that does not exist in his own language; there is a lack, a distance between the two languages. You translate that lack, that part of that poem that your language doesn't have.” Yet another wall, through which we must whittle.
And nothing demonstrates the untenable nature of containment more than the unstoppable fantastic, as Marithelma Costa’s “Celebration” demonstrates through the inevitable transmogrification of New York by an ancient force from beyond the border.
In Dror Abend-David’s comment on Judd Teller’s poem, this translator describes how Teller takes issue with what lies under Ezra Pound’s exhortation to present all participants in poetry as equals: “[T]he ‘democratic’ reading of the sentence, ‘Farmer pounds rice,’ is impossible when one writes ‘as rice’…”
It’s laughable and yet horrible, if you are the ‘rice’ in the system, as Aziz Nesin’s protagonist, Yaşar, finds when he is unable to get a government ID because he is listed as dead in the record books. Can he pay taxes? Yes. Get inheritance? No. Serve in the Army? Yes. Get a job? No. These insubstantial walls separating him from the rest of society become concretized as he finds himself in prison, from which he tells us his tale.
Welcome to the first issue of The Wall, dedicated to both acknowledging the many metaphoric and real barriers in the world and to hastening the horde’s eventual trivialization of these obstacles.
We would like to thank numerous individuals and organizations that have helped realize this first issue of The Wall: Ed Foster and Talisman House Publishers (www.talismanmag.net) not only connected us with the work of Carmen Firan, Brane Mosetic, Adam J. Sorkin, Alexandra Carides, and Barbara Jursa, but also generously gave advice about website construction. In addition to agreeing to share his swing, Michael Kandel has connected us with numerous PEN writers (www.pen.org), as has Moris Farhi, who has campaigned on behalf of writers’ rights worldwide for decades. Nermin Mollaoğlu and the energetic team at Kalem Agency (www.kalemagency.com) work with many Turkish writers and their estates, including the Nesin Foundation, which uses all the profits from Aziz Nesin’s books (of which there are over 100) to help orphaned and destitute children. And Amy Spangler and the wonderful people at Anatolialit (www.anatolialit.com) consistently introduce Turkish writers to international audiences. Also, we recommend you check out the collection, Turkish Poetry Today 2016 (available through www.redhandbooks.co.uk).
Moreover, while all three Wall editors have worked hard to bring this inaugural issue into the world, Bronwyn Mills has truly undertaken the lion’s share at every turn. And last but not least, we thank you, dear readers, for your energy and interest, and welcome your comments.
It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse,
— Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream
Food for thought: for comments on the irreverent use of partitions, see the short piece on graffitti on our Archives page.