Culture & Literature
The Threepenny Review

The Threepenny Review Spring 2020

The Threepenny Review is a well-regarded quarterly of the arts and society which has been published since 1980. Every issue contains excellent essays, stories, poems, and memoirs, plus beautiful black-and-white photographs. Its regular writers include six Nobel Prizewinners and four U.S. Poet Laureates; recent issues featured writing by Wendell Berry, Geoff Dyer, Louise Glück, Greil Marcus, Javier Marías, Adam Phillips, and Kay Ryan.

United States
The Threepenny Review
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4 Issues

in this issue

3 min.

Tariq al Haydar’s stories and essays have appeared in Diagram, North American Review, The Offing, and elsewhere. Christopher Buckley’s recent books are Star Journal: Selected Poems, Cloud Memoir: Selected Longer Poems, and Agnostic. Adam Chiles grew up in East Yorkshire, England, and is the author of Evening Land. He lives and works in Virginia. Henri Cole’s ninth book of poems, Blizzard, will be published in the fall. Simone Di Piero’s recent books are The Complaints and Mickey Rourke and the Bluebird of Happiness: A Poet’s Notebooks. He lives in San Francisco. Wendy Drexler, whose most recent collection is Before There Was Before, is the poet in residence at New Mission High School, Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Geoff Dyer’s latest book is Broadsword Calling Danny Boy. J. Federle, born and raised in Kentucky, earned an MA in nineteenth-century poetry…

18 min.
table talk

JUDY GARLAND started it. I wasn’t at her Carnegie Hall performance in April of 1961, but in my sixteenth year I’d somehow come into possession of the double LP live recording of it. I didn’t so much listen to the performance as I was pierced by it and by music’s unreason. Whichever number she performed, Judy’s thrilled tones registered a quivering, animal alertness to being alive, as if she’d just woken to existence and had to sing about how dangerously fine that was. Her silvery voice, with its miles-wide vibrato, was fearlessly beseeching, strung out by a sense of exalting hurt and glee. My Judy experience was sharpened by my frequent consternation whenever the female voices in my family cut loose—the women, I mean, on my mother’s side of the…

1 min.
the motto

It’s posted on the wallat school: Omnia quae scio mecum fero, everything I knowI carry with me. Maybe the children recognize the Latin words.Some already know the rules of addition andsubtraction, the many synonyms for hunger, the sound things makeas they fall apart. It’s hard to learn everything at once.Some of them know how to listen from the next room. Some knowhow to pull their blankets over their heads to block outthe noise. Some have decided to invent their own storyabout how they arrived here. Some know what it feels liketo want to die. Probably by now they have found all the goodhiding places and can tell the difference betweena truth and a lie. They don’t need to study or worry aboutforgetting. Everything they know they carry with them, fist and chestand soul and bone.…

2 min.
a note from the artist

I drew from a very young age, at first copying illustrations from my picture books or cartoons, but quickly moving on to everything around me: objects in the house, the view through the window, my family. I was talented but narrow in my influences, with access to art only through books or the media. My first camera was a Canon EA-1, and I had even less idea of what made a good photograph, but I enthusiastically made my way through reams of film, usually black and white. My undergraduate degree was a BA in Fine Art in Bristol (1989–92). I muddled through, but I felt trapped in an old-fashioned approach to image-making, my technical prowess impeding rather than enabling my ability to make interesting work. But what else to do? I…

12 min.
making peace

TWO OF my aunts lived in the same senior citizens’ home. The older one, “Big Aunt,” ninety-nine, had been bedridden for years. The other, Aunt Nobuko, eighty-five, had a terminal illness. When my mother told me she had visited her sisters-in-law because neither had long to live, I debated whether I should also go. I hadn’t seen them for years and we would have nothing to talk about. Above all, I didn’t like them—bottomless sources of callous comments who believed everyone in the world but themselves was a fool. But I embarked on the long train ride from Tokyo to the home. I apparently hadn’t sunk so low as to assume sending customary condolence money to their funerals would suffice to fill my role as family. Heavy rain alternated with autumn…

1 min.

As she gets older the accent of her childhood returns. I hear it sometimes in the under-song of her vowels and consonants; that grist and grit of the Calder region where she grew up, the moor’s hard lines. When my mother moved to London at seventeen she took elocution lessons to drive the accent out. I think now she must have hated that sound, her father’s enunciations pinned inside her own. A relief then, to inhabit new language, to speak without the fierce gutturals of that man. But now, I can hear it, the darker industries of her tongue, that accent creeping back again like millstone, the earth of her childhood as she ages, returning; that harness of her kin.…