“Imagine how boring not only literature, but also art, film, and music would be without any international influence?” — SAND Managing Editor Simone O’Donovan
And imagine how much more exciting it is to publish prose, poetry, and art that covers perspectives from four continents? Our contributors for SAND Issue 17 are based in nine countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. And we asked them a seemingly simple question: to name a favorite writer from their home countries. But the concept of home is never an easy one. Some of our contributors – like our international team here in Berlin – have multiple homes or transient homes or intricate concepts of home, which make their answers to the question even more interesting.
Whatever they define as their home(s), our SAND Issue 17 contributors have put together an eclectic international list of favorite writers and poets for your reading pleasure.
Maija Makinen | Fiction | “Yellowstone”
I have two ‘homes,’ Finland and America. My favorite writers are those whose books speak to human journeys involving some kind of displacement. Recent favorites are Sigrid Nunez's The Friend – written in a tantalizing mix of truth and fiction – and Anja Snellman's mid-1990s feminist philosophical thriller The Geography of Fear, about a group of women bent on revenge. This dark novel affected me so much that I'm translating it into English.
Jon Ransom | Flash Fiction | “A History of Sheds”
A writer I have really enjoyed reading recently is Saleem Haddad (born in Kuwait, and living here in the UK). His debut novel Guapa – about life on the margins, secret spaces and queer identity – is powerful and completely unforgettable.
Megan LeAnne | Poetry | “MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED I NOT BE INVITED TO THANKSGIVING FOR FEAR OF MAKING MY FATHER UNCOMFORTABLE” and “INSTINCT”
Currently, one of my favorite writers is William Brewer from West Virginia. Brewer's debut collection, I Know Your Kind, is an urgent and enthralling portrait of the American opioid epidemic. The language is sharp and lush all at once, and Brewer's treatment of the subject matter is rooted in compassion, grief, and anti-complacency. You can see Brewer's poems or order his books at williambrewer.net.
Lidija Dimkovska | Poetry | “What It Is Like”
I have at least three home countries: the first one where I was born and lived until I was 23, Macedonia; the second one where I lived for 7 years, Romania; and the third one where I have been living for 17 years, Slovenia. Besides these, every country I visit becomes my home country and in each one I have at least one favorite writer. But even in such complicated cosmopolitan cases like mine, I have one and most beloved, favorite writer who contains all my favorite writers and at the same time is unique: Marina Tsvetaeva. Her home country was Russia but also Czechia, France, Germany, and others. I love every single word she wrote or said in her 26 years of writing. Because of her I learned Russian and dreamt of visiting her Moscow and her Yelabuga. Recently I did that. Now our relationship is even stronger and it will last forever. I live with her writing every day. I own almost 60 books of hers in more than 15 languages, and they are some of my most precious belongings. Her Moscow is mine, and her Yelabuga, too. For me Marina Tsvetaeva is the best writer in the world. She is my home country.
Mark Russell | Poetry | “Men Smoothing Walls,” “Men on Men,” and “Men Who Worship Athena”
We're very lucky here in Scotland to have such an array of literary talent, that having a 'favourite' writer is an impossible idea. Last year I was in love with Kathrine Sowerby's The Spit, The Sound and the Nest – a remarkable piece of literature, challenging, witty, and wise. The previous year I was knocked out by Vicki Husband's debut poetry collection This Far Back Everything Shimmers, which fizzes with life, compassion, and virtuosity. I look forward to finding out who my favourite writer is this year. There will be plenty to choose from.
Tse Hao Guang | Poetry | “Enclosing without blocking out it's still transparent”
My favourite writer, for the moment, is Wong May – properly described as a transnational poet, although she grew up in Singapore. Her poetry is sharp, spare, and inflected with an aesthetic sensibility that recalls classical Chinese poetics. Her first three books are out of print, but her latest, Picasso's Tears, is out with Octopus Books in the US.
John Greiner | Poetry | “For a Quarter”
My favorite American poet is Steve Dalachinsky. He is the master of the free jazz idiom in his poetry and has done wonders in the rhythms of the English language. To see Dalachinsky read is parallel to seeing Jimi Hendrix live back in the day.
Scott Platt-Salcedo | Fiction | “Leaving Catabuan”
As an insatiable reader of poetry, I most admire the works of my country’s [the Philippines] premier poet, Marjorie Evasco. I read a poem or two from her collection, Skin of Water, poems selected from her previous works, some new, whenever I’m uninspired to write. I am awed by her restraint, her mastery of austere language, and her breathtaking lyricism, which I’ve learned so much from. She’d probably be surprised to learn that her influence is so far-reaching and that it transcends genre. Her body of work instilled in me care and discipline in my attempts at writing a more luminous lyrical prose which requires both surgical precision and economy, skills that will probably take me a lifetime to master.
Ahmad Almallah | Poetry | “Citizenship Interview”
I was only five at the outbreak of the Intifada in 1987, and words felt like very dangerous toys to play with for a child. I saw people shot at because they were chanting the word “falastiin” in demonstrations. I saw others arrested or shot for writing that word on a wall. Language in poetry functions very similarly and words in a poem start carrying part of the intensity of living and the world. I felt that intensity of language reading al-Mutanabbi in my childhood, but there was no better teacher than life in occupied Palestine.
Adam Maynard | Poetry | “Cooking” and “Citadel”
It's hard to choose one specific writer, but recently I've been re-reading [British poet] Edith Sitwell for her wit, lyricism, and imagery, and enjoying Stevie Smith's charming and morbid ditties, courtesy of Faber and Faber's Collected Poems and Drawings. Contemporary American poetry, however, is my current passion.
shelley feller | Poetry | “Gloubade,” "if sometimes i seem not here, it's not dreaminess; it's fear,"' and “i fatten my fleet/ i pray for meat”
I love Hart Crane. He's a queer little brute – bottom shelf, 80 proof. His candy-manic Midwestern hopefulness and Romantic anachronism feel familiar to me coming from Detroit and having lived in New York and the Deep South. The Bridge is bad in a lot of ways, but I can't stop, and won't stop reading and responding to it.
Patrick Vala-Haynes | Fiction | “Ain't Nothing Here Needs Fixin'”
I first read Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion at 23. My immediate thought was: ‘I want to live in Oregon.’ Of course, I already did. How could a writer tell me more about my home than I already knew? Kesey fights for his characters with every word, and they are all deserving of our interest: the loggers, the inmates, the weird, the wild, the fierce, the tender.
Novisi Dzitrie | Poetry | “Electric Volts in Communal Geometry”
Martin Egblewogbe makes it easy for me to pick my favorite writer from Ghana, my home country. Martin is a storyteller with great talent. He is the author of Mr. Happy and the Hammer of God and Other Stories, a stunning collection of short stories. He has other writings featured in publications worldwide. The striking thing about Martin’s writing is that it brings you home in examining layers of the human condition in a way that is intense and exhilarating.
Caroline Beimford | Fiction | “Under My Skin”
Recently, I have been returning to [American writer] Mary Gaitskill for her nimbleness and wit. I love how she leaps through time and mimics the idiosyncrasies of memory. How with a single line of dialogue she can conjure a whole person.
Elizabeth Metzger | Poetry | “A Birth Interrupted On and Off by the World” and “After Anatomy”
I think Emily Dickinson is our greatest American poet. She uses a form and metrics of reverence – the hymn – to express doubt, uncertainty, even irreverence. Her dashes let silence become a present part of language. They lend her poems the urgency and privacy of a mind in process, which is I think what the best poems in all languages do.
Vanessa Bates Ramirez | Fiction | “Camila”
Jhumpa Lahiri's never written something I didn't like. Most of her characters are new or foreign to the places they inhabit, and besides offering a nuanced look at the immigrant experience in the US, they're complex and relatable on a deeply human level. Her language and word choice are simple but always on point. I practically know the last paragraph of her story ‘The Third and Final Continent’ by heart, but every time I read it it still gives me chills.
Reina Nelson | Poetry | “Planting Daffodils in Your Waterline”
My favorite writer from my home country is Noy Holland. She writes with an obsessive immediacy that I would turn myself inside out for.
Michael Lee Rattigan | Poetry | “Place”
I’d like to nominate [Scottish poet] W.S. Graham as a favourite writer and these lines from “The Constructed Space” should suffice as a reason:
"Anyhow here we are and never
Before have we two faced each other who face
Each other now across this abstract scene
Stretching between us."
To read our contributors’ own work, pick up a copy of SAND Issue 17.