Monday, February 27, 2017

Catamaran and Tiferet: Two Very Fine Independent Literary Journals

While it is a joy to be able to publish without gatekeepers-- joy enough that I for one have been blogging every Monday and oftentimes more often since 2006-- a curated presentation of poetry and prose, that is, the traditionally edited literary magazine on ye olde paper, has not disappeared, nor will it, and thank goodness.


I happy to report that a pair of very fine independent literary magazines has landed in my mailbox: Catamaran Literary Reader and TiferetI am also honored to report that the Fall 2016 issue of the former includes my translation of Mexican writer Rose Mary Salum’s short story “The Time,” and the Fall 2016 issue of the latter, an excerpt from my book, a work of creative nonfiction about a translation: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. 
As an ex-literary magazine editor myself (Tameme), I have a big heart full of appreciation for such magazines. And when they are as unique, and as beautifully edited and exceptionally well-designed as these two, I want to get up on the top of the roof and toot a tuba-- or something! 

Founding editor Catherine Segurson describes Catamaran as “pages full of color, inviting images, and engrossing stories, poems and essays—all from curious and inventive minds.”  
Indeed: standouts in this issue include a poem and an essay by Richard Blanco, and the several paintings by Bo Bartlett, whose “Via Mal Contenti” graces the cover.  More about artist Bo Bartlett in this brief video:

Catamaran makes a special effort to include literary translation in every issue. N.B.: Catamaran's contributing editors include essayist and translator Thomas Christensen and poet, teacher, and noted translator Zack Rogow.  

Mexican writer, poet, editor
Rose Mary Salum
Mexican Poet and Writer
Mexican writer and poet Rose Mary Salum is the editor of Literal, and editor of the anthology Delta de las arenas: Cuentos árabes, cuentos judíosHer collection of linked short stories set in the Midde East, which includes "The Time," is El agua que mece el silencioMy translation, in-progress, is entitled The Water That Rocks the Silence. If you read Spanish, check out her interview in El Páis.
>> See my previous post about her work in Origins. 
>> See also my in-depth interview with Salum in Conversations with Other Writers.

Tiferet is published by novelist and poet Donna Baier-Stein. I echo poet Molly Peacock's praise: 

“Thank you for this journal which combines spiritual issues, imaginative issues, esthetic issues. All of those, I think, need to be in the mix for the richly lived life, the richly observed life.” 

This Fall 2016 issue opens with a splendid essay by poet Mark Doty, “Luckier / Rowdyish, Carlacue, Wormfence and Foosfoos.” Just for that yonder-galaxy-beyond-the-Cineplex-title: Another thank you! 

Francisco I. Madero
Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and President of Mexico, 1911-1913
My piece in Tiferet  about Madero's 1911 Spiritist Manual did not include any of my translation, but you can read some of that here. Caveat: If you are unfamiliar with metaphysics you might find Madero's Spiritist Manual... oh, I guess I would say... wiggy-zoomy. In which case, I invite you to read my book about that book, my own wiggy-zoomy attempt to give it some cultural-historical-political context, which is available from amazon and other major sellers, and the website offers several lengthy excerpts, as well as extentive Q & A, a podcast of my talk for the University of California San Diego US Mexican Studies Center, the Centennial Lecture for University of Texas El Paso, and several other talks and interviews here. (My personal fave is Greg Kaminsky's Occult of Personality.)

P.S. & P.S.S.
P.S. For those of you, dear readers, looking to publish in literary magazines, everything I have to say about the oftentimes crazy-making lottery-like ritual is here. If you are audacious enough to start your own journal, I say, go for it! Please! (But bring a case of apirin and a few wheelbarrows of dough. The green kind.) I have more to say about literary magazines, past, mine, and future, here. And for an interview with an editor who managed to establish an unusual level of financial viability, be sure to check out my podcast interview with Dallas Baxter, founder of Cenizo Journal.
P.S.S. If you're wondering what's up with Marfa Mondays, stay tuned, the long overdue podcast 21 is still in-progress. Listen in to the other 20 podcasts posted to date here.
>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Heribert von Feilitzsch on Dr. Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Mexican Revolution, Plus a Note on "El Tatwametro"

One hundred years and counting since the explosion of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, treasures are still being pulled out of the dust of various archives, and narratives refashioned accordingly. The latest contribution should spark the interest of anyone who ponders the whys, wherefores and eye-crossing chaos of that tumult-- and the history of German-Mexican relations and of metaphysical religion: The essay by Heribert von Feiltzsch entitled "Medical Doctor, Occultist, Revolutionary, Spy: Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Mexican Revolution," which is included in the anthology edited by Roberto Cantú, Equestrian Rebels: Critical Perspectives on Mariano Azuela and the Novel of the Mexican Revolution (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016).

Little known as he may be at present, Dr. Krumm-Heller was a key figure in the Mexican Revolution, and in particular, for his role in the defeat of Pancho Villa. Why then have historians, with counted few exceptions, tended to overlook him? I would wager that it could be for one or more of three reasons: (1) lack of archival resources about Krumm-Heller and/or lack of access to those in German; (2) resistance to reconsidering enduring paradigms of the revolution; (3) resistance to considering the occult / metaphysical religion and

anyone connected with it. Indeed, Dr. Krumm-Heller, aka "Maestro Huiracocha," was a flamboyant enthusiast and a prolific author of esoterica, a Spiritist, a Mason, a Theosophist, and a leading figure in 20th century Rosicrucianism and the Ordo Templi Orientis.

For many historians, alas, it has been easier to dismiss such ideas and movements than to dig in and attempt to come to a broader understanding of their nature and context. I know from first-hand experience how challenging this can be: for my book on Manual espírita of 1911, the secret book by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution, Francisco I. Madero, I had to read through a Himalaya of works that were at times for me--as I surmise they would be for most researchers of the Mexican Revolution-- discomfiting in the extreme. (I discuss this challenge at some length in my review of Strieber and Kripal's Super Natural.)

In his detailed and well documented article, von Feilitzsch has made a vital contribution not only to the literature on the Mexican Revolution but also to German-Mexican relations and the history of metaphysical religion. Those interested in the latter subject will recognize names of Dr. Krumm-Heller's teachers and mentors, among them, Madame Blavatsky, Papus, Franz Hartmann, and Rudolph Steiner. 

I am honored that von Feilitzsch cited my work on Madero's Spiritism, as well as some of my correspondence speculating about Madero's attitude towards Theosophy and the nature of Madero's relationship with Dr. Krumm-Heller. 

One thing that jumped out as new to me was von Feilitzsch's mention that Krumm-Heller "had his first training in esotericism through the French spiritist León Denis." Denis was one of the leaders of the Spiritist movement after Allan Kardec. Francisco I. Madero and his father, Francisco Madero, were the sponsors of the Spanish translation of Denis's book, Après la Mort (After Death). Since some historians erroneously claim that that translation was never published, I made this little video showing my copy of that title, Después de la muerte, which was indeed published in 1906. 

Related posts of interest:

>> Professor Roberto Cantú

>> Heribert von Feilitzsch's webpage and Mexican Revolution blog.

>> von Feilitzsch: "A Decision with Grave Consequences: Arnold Krumm-Heller and the Demise of Pancho Villa"

>> My review for Literal of von Feilitzsch's In Plain Sight: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908-1914 (which mentions Dr Krumm-Heller)

>> Some of my blog posts on Dr Krumm-Heller:

More About the Mysterious Dr. Krumm-Heller and His Book Fur Freiheit und Recht (For Freedom and Justice)
Del Incienso a la Osmoterapia (From Incense to Osmoptherapy) by Arnoldo Krumm-Heller
Arnold Krumm-Heller (1876-1949) and Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913): Some Notes on Sources


Dr. Krumm-Heller prepared the draft of El Tatwametro in 1911-- when he was in Mexico with Madero-- although he did not publish it until 1926. The photos shown here are of my copy, a first edition from Barcelona. 

Here is my translation of the opening page:

By Dr. Krumm-Heller

Upon receiving my initiation, my guru gave me detailed instructions about the tatwas and the tatwameter, but I was never able to find a way to publish them. Around the year 1912 in Mexico I read an article about this matter, by my friend Brandler-Pracht* of Berlin, and then I wrote a 
pamphlet about the practical application of the tatwas.

Five years later in Berlin we had some occult experiences together and Brandler-Pracht told me that he had published a larger work on this same subject. 

I have not been able to find a copy of of the latest edition, but it is likely that my book and Brandler-Pracht's are very similar, since they are based on material from the same source. At the end of this work there is something by that author.

But, what is tatwa?

It is the name the Hindus give to powers that are as mysterious as they are powerful.

For us westerners tatwas is the vibration of the ether.

*Karl Brandler-Pracht was the author of several works on the occult. The German National Library (Deutsche National Bibliotek) has a catalog of his books here. The book he wrote on the tatwas is Tattwische und astrale Einflüsse: ein Schlüssel zur prakischen Verwendung der it dem menschlichen Leben enverbundenen kosmischen Schwingungen, wodurch jedermann sein Geschick günstig beeinflussen kannHere's my rough go at translating that mouthful: The Tatwas and Astral Influences: A Key to the Practical Use of the Cosmic Vibrations that are Intimately Connected to Human Life, Whereby Everone Can Influence Their Fate Favorably. As far as I can ascertain it was originally published in 1924.

+ + + + + +

For those of you wondering what's up with my Far West Texas book and Marfa Mondays Podcasts, bless y'all, and stay tuned. Meanwhile, I invite you to listen in anytime to the 20 podcasts posted to date. The 21st podcast, an essay, has required a heap more background reading than I bargained for... To give you an idea of the complexity, should that be your cup of buffalo blood, check out my review of Hamalainen's The Comanche Empire.


Monday, February 13, 2017


Mexico has been very much on my mind these past days because I have been working on some translations of works by Mexican writers Agustín Cadena and Rose Mary Salum... more news about those soon... and also (not entirely a digression from the book in-progress about Far West Texas) I have been working on an essay about books in Mexico entitled "Dispatch from the Sister Republic." A brief excerpt from that as yet unpublished essay:


The Dresden Codex was water-damaged in the firebombings of World War II. Fortunately for us, around 1825, a facsimile had been made by the Italian artist Agostino Aglio, commissioned by the Irish peer Edward King, Lord Kingsborough—the latter a believer in the theory, to become an article of faith for the Mormons, that the Mesoamericans were descendants of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
Aglio’s facsimile is included in Kingsborough’s colossal multi-volume Antiquities of Mexico. And when I say “colossal” I do not exaggerate. In those days before photography, Lord Kingsborough sent Aglio all over Europe, to the Vatican Library, the royal libraries of Berlin, Dresden, and Paris, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, among many others, to copy their Mexican codices, painstakingly tracing the elaborate diagrams and glyphics, and then coloring them in. Aglio also made paintings of Mexican sculptures and other artifacts in European collections. The whole project, from making the fascimiles to the state-of-the-art color printing and luxury binding, was at once a visionary contribution to world culture and an extravagance beyond folly. It could be said that Antiquities of Mexico killed Lord Kingsborough; having exhausted his liquidity before paying for the paper, he was imprisoned in Dublin, where he contracted typhoid.*
 Lord Kingsborough never made it to Mexico, but it was in Mexico City, on a tour of the Biblioteca Vasconcelos, that I saw one of those volumes of Antiquities of Mexico up close. That particular volume was part of the personal library, then recently acquired, of Carlos Monsiváis, one of Mexico’s most esteemed journalists and leftist social critics, who died in 2010. I could not tell you which volume of Antiquities of Mexico it was nor why nor how it was separated from its fellow volumes in its set, nor why nor how Monsiváis, famous for his witty musings on Mexican popular culture, had acquired it.
The librarian, wearing white gloves, strained to lift the volume off its shelf. Bound in navy-blue Morrocco leather, it was the size of a small suitcase. With the grimace of a weight-lifter, he slowly lowered it onto the table. He levered up the cover, then turned a couple of the pages. The colors of the prints of Aglio’s paintings of the leaves from a codex— red, yellow, turquoise, ochre— were as bright as if painted that morning. 
I later learned that that single volume weighed some 65 pounds.

*Sylvia D. Whitmore, "Lord Kingsborough and His Contribution to Ancient Mesoamerican Scholarship: The Antiquities of Mexico," The PARI Journal, Spring, 2009 

>> Read more about the Antiquities of Mexico at Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books, a description of a set that was auctioned for USD 61, 625.

>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

UPDATE: "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla," my long essay on the Mexican literary landscape and the power of the book, is now available in Kindle.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Texas Institute of Letters

I am honored to announce that I have been elected to the Texas Institute of Letters. Herewith the announcement on the TIL websitenew members for 2017 include a batch of very accomplished writers. On the website, whoo hoo, there's my name next to Larry McMurtry's! And there are Cormac McCarthy, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sergio Troncoso... it's a long list. 

Funny, Larry McMurtry has been on my mind of late because first, after I caught the bug for an Hermes 3000 typewriter,  I found out that he used (uses?) one; second, for an essay I'm writing about books I read his memoir, Books— an experience I would liken to the perfect BLT on the perfect afternoon. 

What's my connection with Texas? I was born in El Paso, and I am writing about that in a book in-progress on Far West Texas. Culturally I would describe myself as pre-Silicon Valley (I grew up there, but left before it became what it is today) and with the overlay of Chilangolandia, that is, Mexico City, where I have lived for most of my life. 

>> About that book in-progress on Far West Texas: Listen in any time to the podcasts apropos of this project here. Twenty podcasts have been posted to date; I will do 4 more to round it off at 24 podcasts. Stay tuned. The ridiculously delayed podcast about my visit to Bracketville is taking shape....

In case you missed them, here are a few of my Far West Texas podcasts:

Listen here.

Listen here.

Listen here.

Listen here.

And a few of my recent book reviews on Texas topics:

The Comanche Empire
by Pekka Hämäläinen
Reviewed for Madam Mayo blog

Nut Country: Right-wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy
by Edward H. Miller
Reviewed for Washington Independent Review of Books

The Pecan: A History of America's Native Nut 
by James McWilliams
Reviewed for Madam Mayo blog

Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America
by Richard Parker
For Madam Mayo blog

> All book reviews here.

P.S. If you're in the Washington DC area and find this of interest, I will be teaching a one day only workshop on literary travel writing at the Writer's Center on Saturday April 22 10 AM to 1 PM in Bethesda. More info about that workshop here.

>> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.