The From the Ruins Edition

In 1995, singer Natalie Merchant released her song ‘San Andreas Fault’, in which the tectonic plates under San Francisco took on a sinister, human aspect, “mov[ing their] fingers/ through the ground” – a reference, perhaps, to the huge 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, or others since. In Merchant’s song, the fault-line of the past and the present become muddied – she sings of an anonymous “sun-baked slender heroine of film & magazine” and yet evokes the ghosts of the pioneers who went west, because “Paradise is there”.

NLP’s June edition explores this, and related, panoramas – take a look, for example, at Underwood & Underwood’s early twentieth century image of San Francisco’s ruined City Hall that appears in this month’s flyer – through poetry, art and travel writing.

We introduce ‘Difficult Laughter’, a first short collection of poetry for NLP from Carcanet poet Olivia McCannon. McCannon impressed with her at once authoritative and sensuous voice, that recognises the strangeness of the passing of time: “Some time later they showed up again/ Finding each other in different rooms/ With different hearts but the stories/ They told were all the same or they/ Knew the words and didn’t know why”. This verse seems to express well NLP’s exploration of the ambivalent fault-line of time that underscores images and words.

Poet Janette Ayachi gives us a glimpse of present-day San Francisco in a travelogue that is full of strong, sun-dazed images and references to San Francisco’s literary past.

Finally, artist Justine Frischmann, based in San Francisco’s Bay Area, discusses her latest artwork with a frankness and lucidity that interviewer Andrew F Giles found refreshing.  She suggests that all artwork rebuilds itself from the ruins of the past, but Frischmann finds faith traversing this ‘geography of doubt’ that informs her work.

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