The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Lilies and Cannonballs Review

Editor Daniel Connor. Vol. 2, Num. 1. Spring/Summer 2005. 108 pp. Flat bound 5 1/2 X8 1/2. $12. ISSN 1548-8365.

Lilies and Cannonballs Review
POB 702
Bowling Green Station
New York, NY 10274-0702


Lilies and Cannonballs Review publishes a mix of short fiction, poetry, essays, and art. In this issue, also included is a translation of a portion of Diary of Andrés Fava by “towering figure twentieth-century Latin-American literature” Julio Cortázar. How sad that the seeming large majority of educated editors and poets have been so indoctrinated as to simply bow down before names. They have been rendered incapable, thanks to a highly efficient educational system, of questioning and challenging those names. For them, canon is canon. Period. Why question and challenge it?

Perhaps Lilies and Canonballs Review with one ‘n’ would have been a more appropriate title for this literary journal because it does not contain any cannonballs at all, but only more of the same canon fodder. The review takes its name from a phrase penned by poet Vicente Huidobro: “Tomad un lirio y un cañonazo, mezcladlos hasta hacer un todo; he ahí mi alma.” [Take a lily and a cannonball, mix them together; there you have my soul.] But a cannonball symbolizes fire, passion for a cause, and combat. This journal is none of those things at all.

The translation, more than anything else, serves to give the impression Cortázar was a true master of the art of highbrow verbiage, or rather fluff. Yet, if we were to blindly accept translator Anne Mclean’s backslapping introduction to it, common mortal literati should be no less than awe-stricken by it. Indeed, she notes Pablo Neruda declared “Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed.” Well, this reviewer is evidently doomed.

“Along the Santa Fe trail—Bing Crosby sings and I’m struck once more by that surprise of any Spanish word stuck in the middle of an English or French construction,” writes Cortázar. “Suddenly, in just that instant, the discovery of the word in all its virginity; but then it’s blotted out, then its back to the thing I know (or rather that I don’t know, that I just use).” Clearly, this “diary” is not very exciting… though it is written by a name-brand writer of the canon. How not to quote Emerson? Indeed, let us urge the editor and contributors of L&CR to heed the man from Concord. “I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.”

The “art” in this issue is sadly and unoriginally anodyne. It is what industry specialists refer to as “filler pieces,” like the poetry and cartoons in the New Yorker. There are no cannonballs at all. The pieces include a sketch of a tree stump (“Mother Fucker Grow”) by Chris Dunbar, “Lampshade Reflected on a Painted Wall” and “Scratches” (a photo of part of an armchair with cat scratches) by Catherine Murphy, a sketch of an elephant with little cloud bursts coming out of its hide and what looks like a sketch of a woman farting by Randy Gilmore, “Dad Was So Fucking Hilarious” (a sketch of “dad” with a grin) by Alex Shuchard, and a sketch of a couple fornicating by John Hull. Then there is the collection of sketches by the editor’s brother or son Marc Connor, “Contemplation of the Atrocities of Human Conflict,” accompanying the editor’s poems, which seem to insult—by their very banality—those who have actually been victims of atrocities. Write (and sketch) what you know goes the dictum!

As for the poetry in this issue, it is eclectic and without any focus whatsoever, poetry for the sake of poetry. Themes include the snowflake (“One morning a snowflake made the descent from a parent cloud with some reluctance”), a mother’s last theory, eating (“I’m off my feed this week”), optical illusions (“The old sepia photo taken/ after a shooting party/ on the duke’s estate”), “Lecture Based on Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine Chapter VIII Woodpeckers,” and a prairie love song (“In a field of horses, I am the horsefly and you are the piebald roan”). Some of the poems are downright embarrassing and ought to provoke readers to want to shake the living hell out of the poets who wrote them and ask: whatever made you become poets? Feminist writer Meridel LeSueur accurately noted: “We have many poets of the corpse.”

Perhaps Arthur Saltzman’s essay, “In Praise of Pointlessness,” best sums up this issue, if not the very focus of Lilies and Cannonballs Review. “So when will they commission an anthem to confetti or dedicate a statue in the park to Silly Putty. Why doesn’t anyone plan on naming her next child Nerf?” Certainly, we will not have to wait very long, given the ever-growing assembly-line mob of art pour art artistes and writers.

This reviewer cannot recommend Lilies and Cannonballs Review.