First of Two Parts: Today’s show deals with The Last Mosaic, a collaborative book by Elizabeth Cooperman and Thomas Walton, who prefer to be known by the single title of “the writer who wrote The Last Mosaic.”
From the back cover: “Haunted by three thousand years of artists who made pilgrimage to the Eternal City, Elizabeth Cooperman and Thomas Walton have gathered their own impressions from the ruinous streets of Rome and unearthed this literary mosaic, dazzling with comedy and cobblestones, shadows, cicadas, and shock of light. The Last Mosaic is a guidebook for wanderers: an aesthetic call to arms to ‘listen,’ a battle cry to ‘be impressed,’ and a plea to ‘get lost.’”
It is also a highly literary production in which the author’s (authors’) language (languages) asserts itself (themselves) over and against Rome’s three thousand year history, a “postmodern” production in which the interrogation of language is as important an element as the interrogation of art, artists, and landscape. It is/isn’t/is a travelogue.
The book opens,
The first conspirator to lunge at Julius Caesar was Tullius Cimber, who yanked at the dictator’s toga from behind. Next Casca attacked, but the knife missed, scratching Caesar just beneath the throat. Caesar grabbed Casca’s arm, then stabbed him with a pen.
I wonder what he wrote.
Among the ancient sarcophagi, ants crawl everywhere. Trailing in and then out, from room to room.
A bougainvillea climbs the facing wall of a courtyeard nearby: an enormous spider waiting in the sun.
Newly arrived, we leave the Campo de’ Fiori vowing to get lost. At each intersection we choose the narrowest, most forbidding way. After a half-hour we’ve succeeded, navigating a warren of narrow, crumbling walls. Another half-hour passes. Now completely lost, we turn a dark corner, duck beneath a low arch and find a terrific field opening out in front of us: littered with ruins and dazzling with lupines.
Elizabeth Cooperman is co-editor (with David Shields) of the anthology Life Is Short—Art is Shorter. Her work has appeared in Writer’s Chronicle, Seattle Review, 1913: A Journal of Forms, and other journals. She is Art Director at PageBoy Magazine, and teaches sporadically as an adjunct professor in the University of Washington’s English Department.
Thomas Walton is author of the anti-lyric-essay lyric essay The World Is All That Does Befall Us and the micro-chapbook A Name Is Just a Mane. His work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Delmar, Timberline Review, Rivet, The Chaos Journal, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Bombay Gin, Pontoon, and other magazines. Some of his poems were anthologized in Make It True; Poetry from Cascadia. He lives in Seattle, where he edits PageBoy Magazine.