Book Review
Sunday, March 10, 2013
'Salt:' An Essential Taste of Life on This Island

"Salt, an Indigenous Journal," edited by Kimberly Narenkivivius (Flying Fish Publishing, available free at Fausto's and elsewhere)

The second newsstand edition of "salt: an indigenous journal," like its original incarnation, which was a series of three handsome books, is as close to a fine literary arts publication as it gets around here. And it is flat-out beautiful. To bend the old saw, a thing of beauty should be a joy forever -- which is why it's a puzzle that Salt 5 (like its immediate predecessor ) is printed on newsprint. High-quality newsprint but still newsprint (with a color photo of Kirby Congdon on the cover).

There are good reasons for this. Publisher Kimberly Narenkivicius elected the tabloid format and was thereby able to print a run of 8,000 copies and distribute them for free. The price of the earlier, much smaller book editions had risen precipitously over the years. And there is something romantic about the impermanence, even the imperfection of newsprint; it's an appropriate format for words and large images and goes great with a cup of coffee. And it's good to make this issue free to all, reaching a wider audience of locals and tourists.

This finely designed journal is full of brilliant work by some of our town's best known talents, as well as work by new folks such as Elizabeth Barber Rich's ultimately chilling "innocence" and "we want the human touch" and Scottish artist Darren Jones's revelatory interview with Congdon. But most names are familiar, for example Rosalind Brackenbury with a loving, intensely Key West "Coming Home," Cricket Desmarais with an account of the physical and philosophical lives of salt farmers Midge Jolly and Tom Weyant and Bud Navero's image-rich love poem, "suite elaine."

There is also a cultural history of Key West in the 1960s, "henry lawrence faulkner's art of magical transformation" by Matt Dukes Jordan, illustrated with iconic polaroids of Marie Cosindas, and Congdon's own contribution, "Poem," in which he shakes his clenched fist at time and age -- yet is hopeful still. There is, too, a little-known actual historical account, Nancy Klingener's examination of "World War I Waterfront Passes."

Most poignant, as well as what touches me most as a rumination on life after motherhood, is "in the dust that falls," from the collection of Jennifer O'Lear, selected with the assistance of husband Joe O'Lear and Margit Bisztray as the poet herself recovers from a traumatic brain injury. Bisztray is represented by the journal's only fiction, "spatial reasoning," a deceptively straightforward short story illustrated by Eric Anfinson's haunting portrait, (reproduced in color as the journal's back cover announcing the artist's solo exhibition coming up March 16 to 28 at Sheila Mullins' Fleming Street Gallery).

The collection is completed by "oceangram," the enigmatic words and art of the versatile Anja Marais, plus "what is it ..." by Arlo Haskell, a painterly poet of immense promise.

Even the ads are beautiful, especially the larger ones; check out Archeo and the Green Pineapple.

There is a carp or two. The font size of the captions is simply too small, the result of necessarily having to switch typefaces at the last minute, apparently. And the name of Jones, the Congdon interviewer, needed to be at least as large as that of the writer of the preface to the piece.

Each edition of "salt" carries a version of its original Statement of Intention. Brutally summarized, it is, "Key West is home to artists, writers, healers ... fishermen, sailors and dreamers ... This is our story."

The issue is available throughout town at numerous locations including Fausto's, The Studios of Key West and the library. This journal is beautiful and valuable. And hopefully it will endure and propagate over and over, whatever its form.

-- Reviewed

by C. S. Gilbert

"Kirby Congdon: Sixty-five Years of Poetry," edited by Ray C. Longtin and Roseanne Ritzema (Presa Press, $20)

In a perfect world, or at least a poetic one, labors of love beget labors of love and such is true and evident in the fact of this volume's existence. Kirby Congdon, our Poet Laureate, was on the barricades of the "mimeo revolution" of the 1960s.

In that innovative and idealistic age, scores of poets first saw their work in print in locally distributed "pop-up" poetry mags run-off on mimeo machines and stapled in basements and walk-ups, to be shared and sold for $2 or a beer or a few hits on a joint at local poetic gathering places as the best minds of their generation (Howl") explored the underside of the post-war American Dream in coffee houses and college student centers.

Because of the ephemeral nature of this revolution and the deliberate avoidance of corporate publishers, a lot of work has been lost in the haze of momentary revelation and inspirations. Many an audience member must have gone away with a changed mind wishing they could remember or find the poem or poet that had had such a profound effect upon them.

Kirby Congdon epitomizes the poets of those days who gave away, lost or were abandoned by more than 300 poems. Thanks to the tireless efforts of a tribe of scholars/editors/bibliographers/archaeologists, his entire oeuvre of small-press publications has now been cataloged.

This bibliography is exclusively available, along with the body of his available work, at Island Books, 513 Fleming St.

-- Recommended

by Bud Navero