Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Rachel Tzvia Back Translates
Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner,
Voice of Holocaust Generation


The Hebrew Union College Press, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Press, has just released the first collection in English of an important voice of the Holocaust generation: In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner

The volume is translated, annotated and introduced by Rachel Tzvia Back, whose own poems appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events . See her full bio below.


The disasters of the 20th Century swept Ruebner from Europe to Israel, from German to Hebrew, from the familiar to the strange. Despite his truncated formal education, he became a poet and man of letters in Israel’s fledgling intellectual community, alongside other Jewish immigrant-refugee-survivors like Ludwig Strauss, Lea Goldberg, and Dan Pagis, eventually gaining international esteem as professor of comparative literatures at Haifa University and as renowned translator. For his fifteen poetry collections, from The Fire in the Stone in 1957 to Last Ones in 2013, Ruebner has received awards and accolades in Israel and Europe.

Ruebner’s poetry offers an exquisite and indispensable voice of the 20th Century. His little sister, murdered in Auschwitz, and his youngest son, who disappeared in South America, wander unceasingly through his poems. Beyond the personal losses, the devastation of the century informs all of his work. Textual rupture and fragmentation echo historical rupture and fragmentation. The wonder of Tuvia Ruebner is that, after a lifetime of loss and tragedies, he remains open to the possibility of happiness. This openheartedness accommodates the many paradoxes and conflicts of life and infuses his poetry with an enduring and encompassing compassion for both the lost and for the living.

Sample of poems from In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner.

MOONLIT NIGHT (2)

I know it’s nothing
but a dream
and as a dream will flee
but this small hope
this small foolish unceasing
hope
that one day we’ll meet
on the dark side of the moon
pain does not appease
the darkest thoughts
now it’s night and you are missing
tomorrow will be day and you’ll be missing
your wisdom is missing, your voice missing
your love a weeping deeper than tears wept
but the day is not far off when I’ll be
beyond this, and the dream
lingers
you and me
on the other side of the moon
we’ll be with you and with me
you and me as one
forever
my son, my son

WONDER

If after everything that has happened
you can still hear the blackbird,
the tufted lark at dawn, the bulbul and the honey-bird –
don’t be surprised that happiness is watching the clouds being
     wind-carried away,
is drinking morning coffee, being able to execute all the body’s
     needs
is walking along the paths without a cane
and seeing the burning colors of sunset.

A human being can bear almost everything
and no one knows when and where
happiness will overcome him.

MY SISTER

1
I went to find for you a form,
tenderness with no body,
sorrow with no hands no forehead,
I went to find for you
spring, a bird seeking a cage,
I walked a long way to find
your footsteps,
constellations for your long hair,
sanctuaries for your eyes.

2
Always when the full moon rises
my sister’s face darkens,

sad-eyed bird in the branches
abandoned by its orbit.
Always when the moon is renewed
my sister’s face darkens,

empty unblessed lips
muttering bird-words.

Oh these lofty skies,
how much we’ve asked of them!
Soon their image will be fully blurred,
bearing no tears.

Poems from In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner reprinted by permission of the translator Rachel Tzvia Back. The title is linked to Amazon.com to buy. Also available at University of Pittsburgh Press.

Rachel Tzvia Back’s graceful translations of select poems representative of Ruebner’s seven-decade poetic trajectory are ever-faithful and beautifully attuned to the Hebrew originals, even as they work to create a new music in their English incarnations. Her comprehensive introduction and annotations supply the context in which these poems were produced. This first-ever bilingual edition, published as Ruebner marks his 90th birthday, gives readers in both Hebrew and English access to stunning poetry that insists on shared humanity across all border lines and divides.

Tuvia Ruebner
Tuvia Ruebner is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Haifa University, winner of the Israel Prize, and translator of the works of S. J. Agnon, Goethe, Ludwig Strauss, and Friedrich Schlegel. Rachel Tzvia Back is a poet, translator, and professor of literature at Oranim College, Haifa, Israel.


Rachel Tzvia Back – poet, translator and professor of literature – lives in the Galilee, where her great, great, great grandfather settled in the 1830s. Her poetry collections include Azimuth (Sheep Meadow, 2001), The Buffalo Poems (Duration Press, 2003), On Ruins & Return: Poems 1999-2005 (Shearsman Boks, 2007), and A Messenger Comes (Singing Horse Press, 2012). Back's translations of the poetry of pre-eminent Hebrew poet Lea Goldberg, published in Lea Goldberg: Selected Poetry and Drama (Toby Press 2005) represent the most extensive selection of Goldberg's poetry in English and were awarded a 2005 PEN Translation Award. Back has translated into English poetry and prose other significant Hebrew writers, including Dahlia Ravikovitch, Tuvia Reubner, Hamutal Bar Yosef, and Haviva Pedaya. Back is the editor and primary translator of the English version of the anthology With an Iron Pen: Twenty Years of Hebrew Protest Poetry (SUNY Press, Excelsior Editions, 2009) – a collection named "haunting" and "historic" by American poet Adrienne Rich. Ms. Back’s poems have been anthologized in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events .

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Poems from Overtipping the Ferryman
A New Collection by R. G. Evans


Month without a Moon

Any night I like, I can rise instead of the moon
that has forgotten us, not a thought of our sad lot,
and roam the darkened oblongs of the dunes.

Once you said the moon was some pale god
who turned away his face to cause the tides,
and once you said that, I of course believed

that you were mad. Now the ghost crab guides
me to the edge where land is not land, sea not sea,
and all the sky above is one dark dream.

This is the month with no full moon. You
were its prophet, and I am standing on the seam
between belief and what I know is true.

I gave you a diamond. It should have been a pearl.
It should have been a stone to hang above the world.


Smoke

What is smoke? my daughter asks
beside a campfire I can’t quite get to flame.

I know it’s not a liquid, she says.
Is it a gas? Is it a solid?

Simple. Straightforward. Something
I should know, I’m sure.

I start to say it’s what’s left
when the wood gives up the ghost,

but then I think of ash—
I always think of ash,

how it’s something but nothing,
what’s left when something’s gone.

There was a woman, then there was ash
her husband and the men she loved

scattered on the beach. The wind
wouldn’t let her stay there where she wanted.

My mother, seeding cancer, more ash
than paper dangling from her Lucky Strike.

What is it? my daughter says.
Nothing, I respond.

No, she says, what is smoke? I say
It’s what I make instead of fire.


Experts on Mortality

She makes her first announcement—I awake—
then springs out of her crib just like a toad.

Something in the trees, some movement,
some violence, makes it hard to forget

today. The chase is on. Daddy Death
rumbles down the stairs right behind his little

skeleton-in-waiting, out the door and into the wind—
she's gone. But no, she's there behind the hemlocks

giggling under branches that creak and groan
like everything alive. She points up in the air

says, Look! Look!—and there it is at the end
of her invisible string, the only thing she has,

all that he can give her:
a sky-blue kite in a kite-blue sky.


Reprinted by permission of the poet from Overtipping the Ferryman (Aldrich Press 2014).



For an interview with Evans, listen to this podcast from Ron Block’s Writers’ Roundtable from Rowan University.
R. G. Evans on Rowan University Radio

Evans has been invited to read from Overtipping the Ferryman at the Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, NJ, in October.

R.G. Evans’s poems, fiction, and reviews have appeared in The Literary Review, Pif Magazine, MARGIE, and Weird Tales among others. His book Overtipping the Ferryman won the 2013 Aldrich Prize and was published by Aldrich Press. He writes, teaches, and sings in southern New Jersey.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Path to Recovery Precarious
in poem by R. G. Evans



Many Feet Going
by R. G. Evans

What they don't tell you
is that it's a tightrope walk
and you will be nude, body
all counterweights and pendulums.
They give you a parasol
(too small, a little frayed),
a bright red nose that makes you easy
to track, and a time limit (too short).
If you find the rope is slack,
that's normal. Keep going.
You're young and strong.
Don't be distracted
by the piles of bones below
(Boob! You thought you were
the first?)—but they are:
waxy winged, chained to rocks,
gnawed through the ribs by raptors.
Your rope has been greased
by the soles of many feet going
one way, all the while
believing they have a choice,
believing they might make it.

"Many Feet Going" reprinted by permission of the poet. Appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, an anthology of 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.


Interview with R. G. Evans

How did you come to write “Many Feet Going”?

The image of the tragicomic clown gingerly navigating his way on a tightrope over the abyss came to me after reading Beckett’s great Waiting for Godot. As I said at a reading in support of After Shocks, I didn’t realize “Many Feet Going” actually was a poem about recovery until I submitted it to the anthology. Now, I can’t see it any interpretation for it other than a way of looking at that precarious path.

How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

Well, as I said, the path is precarious. In the poem there are two primary images: the clown on the tightrope and the bones below of those who tried unsuccessfully to make the passage before him. Sometimes I’m the clown, sometimes I’m the pile of bones.


Photo of R. G. Evans by Mark Hillringhouse

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped "Many Feet Going" come to life?

Once I read Godot, the image of man as a tragic hobo-clown became firmly lodged in my consciousness. Then I began to imagine how we often try to achieve goals that are just beyond our reach or forbidden to us in some way (hence the bones of Icarus and Prometheus lying under the tightrope in the poem), and the tightrope walk proceeded logically from that premise.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I always return to the classics: Shakespeare, Yeats, Rilke, to name a few. Contemporary poets whom I admire greatly are Stephen Dunn, Sharon Olds, Charles Simic, and Russell Edson. I recently discovered the twin poets Matthew and Michael Dickman, and highly recommend them, especially to adolescent readers.

What are you working on now?

Since the very recent publication of my collection Overtipping the Ferryman, I’ve been working on a collection of poems inspired by Cyril Connolly’s book An Unquiet Grave. I felt a very personal resonance with that book in the same way I did when I first read Waiting for Godot and its epigrammatic style really lends itself to writing prompts for poems.

R.G. Evans’s poems, fiction, and reviews have appeared in The Literary Review, Pif Magazine, MARGIE, and Weird Tales among others. His book Overtipping the Ferryman won the 2013 Aldrich Prize and was published by Aldrich Press. He writes, teaches, and sings in southern New Jersey.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Majid Naficy
Iranian-American Poet
Profile of Idealism, Tragedy
and Renewal


It's no surprise that Majid Naficy begins his biography with the reading of a poem, but the poem's horrifying significance becomes clear only has his life story unfolds in the Voice of America Portrait, now available with English subtitles.

Eight paces from the gate,
Sixteen paces toward the wall.
Which scroll speaks of this treasure?

Oh, earth!
If only I could feel your pulse
Or make a jug out of your body.
Alas! I'm not a physician.
I'm not a potter.
I am only an heir, deprived,
wandering in search of a marked treasure.

Oh, hand that will bury me,
This is the mark of my tomb:
Eight paces from the gate,
Sixteen paces toward the wall.
In the Cemetery of the Infidels.

Majid started writing poems at 10 while living in Isfahan, Iran, and gave his first book of poems to his older brother Hamid on his 21st birthday. It contained “Elegy of Myself” inspired by Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” His brother showed the poems to Iranian poets, who brought the young boy into workshops, and soon he began publishing in Iranian journals, with the blessings of iconic Iranian poets F. Farrokhzad and A. Shamlou.

Majid became known as one of The New Wave poets in Iran and critics called him Iran’s Arthur Rimbaud.

He published poetry, criticism, and a children’s book The Secret of Words on the origins of language, which won The Royal Book Prize in 1971.

He joined the Iranian Students Confederation and became a devoted Marxist, and wrote poetry and essays under aliases bent to reform Iran, which at the time was ruled by the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi.

Majid met his wife Ezzat Tabaiyan in a coffee shop near Teheran University, where they both were students. They were married in 1979.

They were both involved in the Revolution that brought the new regime to power with the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, invading the headquarters of the SAVAK (secret police of the Shah) and conquering Evin Prison, where political prisoners were held.

However, they soon ran afoul of the new regime, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. They were both members of an organization called “Struggle for The Liberations of the Working Class,” which took two very critical stands against Khomeini: they objected to the taking of American diplomats as hostages after the revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy Teheran in 1979 and they voiced opposition to the Iran-Iraq war of 1980. Ezzat was executed by firing squad on January 7, 1982 with 50 men and one other woman, all buried in unmarked graves in Khavaran Cemetery, known as the Cemetery of the Infidels. Families were obliged to determine the burial locations by measuring paces.

The poem above recounts those graveyard searches, and is entitled:

Marked Treasure
             in memory of my late wife Ezzat Tabaiyan

“She gave her life for freedom,” Majid says, “and freedom is always a precious pledge for me, which I will try to live up to, for myself, for people in the United States, and for people of Iran, my birthplace.”

The revolutionary tribunals also condemned his brother Sa’id and brother-in-law Hossein to the firing squads.

A year after his wife’s execution, he met Esmat, his second wife, and together they escaped to Turkey in 1983, just steps ahead of his own arrest, and eventually, after a brief stay in France, made their way to Los Angeles.

Majid Naficy

The grief and stress of those horrifying years caused an emotional crisis during which “poetry invaded me like a waterfall.” During this time, he wrote 111 poems in 4 months, producing a collection of poetry, After the Silence and many anthologized poems in both Persian and English. He realized he had become the voice for “my fallen comrades in that stolen revolution.”

A stanza of his poem “Ah, Los Angeles” is engraved on a wall along the pathways in Venice, California, along with 15 other poets who’ve written poems about the city.

Ah, Los Angeles!
Let me bend down and put my ear
To your warm skin.
Perhaps in you
I will find my own Sanjan.

He says that the stanza—from a much longer poem, posted in full in the blog item just below this one—represents a question: Can Iranians create a as strong a community in Los Angeles as the one created by Persians in Sanjan, India, after Persia was invaded during the Muslims Conquests of the 7th Century.

In the profile, Majid opens only a small window to his writing process. “For me, writing poetry comes from the subconscious. Most of the time, I first write my poems in Persian, and then I translate them to English. Only after that do I start to edit them.

“I have run 12 consecutive LA marathons, and always reached the finish line for all of them. Always, during the running, poems come to me. Parallel to by body perspiration, I have a mental cleansing as well. Many of my new poems come to me…when I’m pedaling my stationary bike on my balcony.”

Who are his favorite poets?

”I still read Walt Whitman now and then. He inspired me to write poetry when I was 10 years old. I also like to read classical Persian poets such as Ferdowsi, Rumi, Sa’di, Hafez Nezami, and Khayyam as well as contemporary Persian poets such as Nima Yushij, Ahmad Shamlu, Forough Farokhzad and Sohrab Sepehri.”

“Majid’s poetry is becoming an exception in Persian literature,” says Poet and critic Parto Nooriala. “He creates modern poetry relying on deep emotion and deep knowledge about classical Persian literature.”

“I consider myself part of that global movement in which people seek freedom and social justice,” he says. “This movement is not defined by any ideology or religion.”

His son Azad was born in Santa Monica. [Azadi is the Persian word for freedom.] Majid cultivated roots in this second homeland. His son Azad writes hip-hop lyrics and there’s a fine example of one of his raps in the video.

The profile closes with a view from Majid and Azad of the father’s slowly degenerating vision, which became evident when he was very young, diagnosed as degenerative spots on his retinas by U.S. physicians. It had been controllable, until he climbed Mt. Whitney in 2001, and altitude sickness caused the condition to worsen. Majid is nearly blind, though can get around on foot and via public transportation.

“My eyesight impairment is an obstacle,” he says, “but its challenges polish my spirit and lead me to new possibilities. Blindness has made me humble, and brought me to understand the injustice to others, religious persecution, women under double oppression, or the homeless and poor.”

To a Snail

Little wanderer!
Were you not afraid of my big foot
Crushing you?
Last night, in the rain
You crept into my sneaker
To find shelter.
Today
You return to your green birthplace
And I am jealous.

Majid Naficy, the Arthur Rimbaud of Persian poetry, fled Iran in 1983, a year and a half after the execution of his wife Ezzat Tabaian, his brother Sa’id, and brother-in-law Hossein in Tehran. Since 1984 Majid has been living in West Los Angeles. He has published two collections of poetry in English Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque, Books, 1999) and Father and Son (Red Hen Press, 2003) as well as his doctoral dissertation at UCLA Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature (University Press of America, 1997). Majid has also published more than twenty books of poetry and essays in Persian. Majid Naficy's poetry has been anthologized in many books including Poetry in the Windows edited by Suzanne Lummis, Poets Against War edited by Sam Hamill, Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature edited by Nahid Mozaffari and Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Lounge Lit: An Anthology of Poetry and Fiction by the Writers of Literati Cocktail and Rhapsodomancy, Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians around the World edited by Niloufar Talebi, After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo, Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing edited by Ilan Stavans, Revolutionary Poets Brigade Anthology edited by Jack Hirschman and Mark Lipman, and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here edited by Beau Beausoleil and Deema Shehabi.

Majid is one of the six poets featured in the film Poetry of Resilience directed by the Oscar-nominated documentary film-maker Katja Esson. He was the first writer in residence in Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica in 2009-10, and the judge for Interboard Poetry Community contests in 2009. Majid has received awards in two poetry contests, Poetry in the Windows sponsored by the Arroyo Arts Collective as well as Poetry and Recipe organized by Writers at Work in Los Angeles. His poetry has been engraved by the City in public spaces in Venice Beach and Studio City. His life and work was featured in LA Weekly, February 9-15, 2001 written by Louise Steinman, entitled "Poet of Revolution: Majid Naficy's Tragic Journey Home".

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Two poems by
Iranian-American Poet
Majid Naficy

To the Children of Prison and Exile

After the silence of firing squads
Still it burns in our hearts
And we carry their corpses
On our broken backs.
I want to turn this death into life.

How many companions,
Who in these years of defeat and execution
Created life from an embryo?
I am talking about the children of prison and exile:
Cheshmeh, Roza, and Sulmaz.

I want to turn this death into life
That like a jug of water
Becomes filled with the freshness of Cheshmeh,
And like a red rose
Blooms from the lips of Roza,
And like the word sulmaz
Becomes evergreen.
I will sift, grind, and soften this death,
Until the children of prison and exile
Mold it into playdough.
I am calling you,
O newborns of years of pain,
The crocodiles in your painting
Have no teeth,
Because the names of their friends
Never crossed their lips.

I want to turn this death into a poem,
That can be read like magic
When the corpse of a butterfly
Carried by ants
Makes you remember the dead ones.

I want to turn this death into life.

NOTE:
The names Cheshmeh, Roza, and Sulmaz respectively mean: "spring", "rose," and "everlasting."

Ah, Los Angeles

Ah, Los Angeles!
I accept you as my city,
And after ten years
I am at peace with you.
Waiting without fear
I lean back against the bus post.
And I become lost
In the sounds of your midnight.

A man gets off Blue Bus 1
And crosses to this side
To take Brown Bus 4.
Perhaps he too is coming back
From his nights on campus.
On the way he has sobbed
Into a blank letter.
And from the seat behind
He has heard the voice of a woman
With a familiar accent.
On Brown Bus 4 it rains.
A woman is talking to her umbrella
And a man ceaselessly flushes a toilet.

I told Carlos yesterday,
“Your clanging cart
Wakes me up in the morning."
He collects cans
And wants to go back to Cuba.
From the Promenade
Comes the sound of my homeless man.
He sings blues
And plays guitar.
Where in the world can I hear
The black moaning of the saxophone
Alongside the Chinese chimes?
And see this warm olive skin
Through blue eyes?
The easy-moving doves
Rest on the empty benches.
They stare at the dinosaur
Who sprays stale water on our kids.
Marziyeh sings from a Persian market
I return, homesick
And I put my feet
On your back.
Ah, Los Angeles!
I feel your blood.
You taught me to get up
Look at my beautiful legs
And along with the marathon
Run on your broad shoulders.

Once I got tired of life
I coiled up under my blanket
And remained shut-off for two nights.
Then, my neighbor turned on NPR
And I heard of a Russian poet
Who in a death camp,
Could not write his poems
But his wife learned them by heart.

Will Azad read my poetry?
On the days that I take him to school,
He sees the bus number from far off.
And calls me to get in line.
At night he stays under the shower
And lets the drops of water
Spray on his small body.
Sometimes we go to the beach.
He bikes and I skate.
He buys a Pepsi from a machine
And gives me one sip.

Yesterday we went to Romteen’s house.
His father is a Parsee from India.
He wore sadra and kusti
While he was painting the house.
On that little stool
He looked like a Zoroastrian
Rowing from Hormoz to Sanjan.

Ah, Los Angeles!
Let me bend down and put my ear
To your warm skin.
Perhaps in you
I will find my own Sanjan.
No, it’s not a ship touching
Against the rocky shore;
It’s the rumbling Blue Bus 8.
I know.
I will get off at Idaho
And will pass the shopping carts
Left by the homeless
I will climb the stairs
And will open the door.
I will start the answering machine
And in the dark
I will wait like a fisherman.

NOTES:
The Parsees are the descendants of Zoroastrians who emigrated from Iran to Gujarat, India during the Arab conquests. In 1599, Bahman Key Qobâd, a Gujarati Parsee, wrote an epic poem in which he depicts such a migration on a ship from the Straits of Hormoz in the Persian Gulf to the port of Sanjan in India.
The sadra and kusti are special tunics and belts worn by Zoroastrians after puberty.

Both poems reprinted with permission of the poet. Both poems appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo.

Interview with Majid Naficy

Majid Naficy

How did you come to write these two poems?

One of the three children whom I have named in “To the Children of Prison and Exile” is my niece Cheshmeh who was born in Evin prison in Tehran after his father was executed in winter 1983. By writing this poem, I wanted to honor her father and make life out of his death. In “Ah Los Angeles” I wanted to accept my new identity as an Iranian-American and after ten years in exile express my appreciation for Los Angeles.

How did writing these poems affect your recovery?

By writing these two poems as well as similar pieces I have been able to survive after so much personal loss back in Iran and facilitate the process of passage from self-denial to acceptance as an exile in the US.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped these poems come to life?

I did not do any thing special. They came on their own. I only made some changes later.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I still read Walt Whitman now and then. He inspired me to write poetry when I was eleven years old. I also like to read classical Persian poets such as Ferdowsi, Rumi, Sa’di, Hafez Nezami, and Khayyam as well as contemporary Persian poets such as Nima Yushij, Ahmad Shamlu, Forough Farokhzad and Sohrab Sepehri.

What are you working on now?

I am making some changes in a poem which I wrote for my son Azad in 1995 in order to give it to him as a gift for his 24th birthday. It was first published in my collection of poetry Father and Son (Red Hen Press, 2003). I have renamed it from “We Are Sitting Next to Each Other” to “Haircut.” I wrote it when Azad and I went to Supercuts.

Majid Naficy, the Arthur Rimbaud of Persian poetry, fled Iran in 1983, a year and a half after the execution of his wife Ezzat Tabaian and his brother Sa’id in Tehran. Since 1984 Majid has been living in West Los Angeles. He has published two collections of poetry in English Muddy Shoes (Beyond Baroque, Books, 1999) and Father and Son (Red Hen Press, 2003) as well as his doctoral dissertation at UCLA Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature (University Press of America, 1997). Majid has also published more than twenty books of poetry and essays in Persian.

Majid Naficy's poetry has been anthologized in many books including Poetry in the Windows edited by Suzanne Lummis, Poets Against War edited by Sam Hamill, Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature edited by Nahid Mozaffari and Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Lounge Lit: An Anthology of Poetry and Fiction by the Writers of Literati Cocktail and Rhapsodomancy, Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians around the World edited by Niloufar Talebi, After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo, Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing edited by Ilan Stavans, Revolutionary Poets Brigade Anthology edited by Jack Hirschman and Mark Lipman, and Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here edited by Beau Beausoleil and Deema Shehabi.

Majid is one of the six poets featured in the film Poetry of Resilience directed by the Oscar-nominated documentary film-maker Katja Esson. He was the first writer in residence in Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica in 2009-10, and the judge for Interboard Poetry Community contests in 2009. Majid has received awards in two poetry contests, Poetry in the Windows sponsored by the Arroyo Arts Collective as well as Poetry and Recipe organized by Writers at Work in Los Angeles. His poetry has been engraved by the City in public spaces in Venice Beach and Studio City. His life and work was featured in LA Weekly, February 9-15, 2001 written by Louise Steinman, entitled "Poet of Revolution: Majid Naficy's Tragic Journey Home".

A documentary portrait of Dr. Naficy aired January 2014 on VOA in Persian and now is available with English subtitles at You Tube: Video Portrait of Majid Naficy.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Excerpt from Martha Collins
New Collection Day Unto Day


from OVER TIME

      October 2004


1

Not much. Less. Slip
of a finger, diminished
interval, maybe third

of three or two.

Water mirrors house with high
green door opening out (no

steps) into pure air.


2

Air pockets three
hawks. Cat got
the bird got the cat.

Overflown. A habit
of flight. Worn cloud
on the edge of edge.

Wisps. Little tongues.


3

Tongues at work. Talk Today

She could did for an hour or more.
My first her, who gave me words.

Then at the end, before, merely Oh!

A moment of . . . of more, perhaps.

Oh sweet and blessèd could be.

Oh my soul


4

Soul slept, called in sick.

Late sun clouds
the lake with clouds.

Katydid down
to –did –did.

Nothing to be done.

Little sun, quarter moon.


5

Moon covered, un-
covered, covered again, cold.

Cold and hot, very and both.

Disturbed the Sea of Tranquility.

Distributed by the Moon Shop.

Distributed self in pieces.

Oh my broken.


6

Broken down, or out, as in
war, or into, soon: my own him.

How much we carry around
under our skins, many
we were, girls and boys

Now now

And then then.


7

Then gone and then to come:
all the time, except the split
second, except—

All the time in the world.

And out of this world?

Oh little heart on my wrist,
where are we going?

Reprinted from Day Unto Day (Milkweed Press) by permission of the poet.


Interview with Martha Collins

Please tell Poetry of Recovery blog readers how your new collection came about.

I began the book in 2004, and I wrote daily during a different month each year until I finally finish all twelve months. The first six parts of this project were just published as Day Unto Day by Milkweed Press this past March. I have two more months to go to complete the second half.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

As I said in a recent interview, I’ve been reading a lot of African American poetry lately, partly because of the writing I’ve been doing (see below). Beyond older poets like Carl Phillips and Marilyn Nelson, I’m been impressed enough with recent books by Thomas Sayers Ellis, Evie Shockley, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, and Major Jackson to review them in print.

Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens—and the Bible!—were early influences. Later John Ashbery gave me a kind of stylistic license (though my writing is nothing like his), and poets like Denise Levertov, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Muriel Rukeyser allowed me to pursue the kind of subject matter that is reflected in my recent books.

Martha Collins

What are you working on now?

My book Day Unto Day, just released, followed soon after my collection White Papers, which was a kind of follow-up to my book-length poem Blue Front. Two of my books focus on race: Blue Front on a lynching my father witnessed, White Papers more broadly on issues of race as seen from a critical white perspective. A friend once suggested that I must be writing some kind of trilogy, and I am working on a manuscript that might in some sense follow these two—-not focused so narrowly on race, but perhaps related in some way. Or perhaps not related at all.


Martha Collins is the author of Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014), White Papers (Pitt Poetry Series, 2012) and the book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), which won an Anisfield-Wolf Award. She has also published four earlier collections of poems and three collections of co-translated Vietnamese poetry, most recently Black Stars: Poems by Ngo Tu Lap (Milkweed, 2013, with the author). Other awards include fellowships from the NEA, Bunting Institute, Witter Bynner Foundation, and Ingram Merrill Foundation, as well as three Pushcart Prizes and a Lannan Foundation residency. Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin until 2007, Collins is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Two Poems By
William Greenway


Pit Pony

There are only a few left, he says,
kept by old Welsh miners, souvenirs,
like gallstones or gold teeth, torn
from this "pit," so cold and wet
my breath comes out a soul up
into my helmet's lantern beam,
anthracite walls running, gleaming,
and the floors iron-rutted with tram tracks,
the almost pure rust that grows and waves
like orange moss in the gutters of water
that used to rise and drown.
He makes us turn all lights off, almost
a mile down. While children scream,
I try to see anything, my hand touching
my nose, my wife beside me—darkness
palpable, like a velvet sack over our heads,
even the glow of watches left behind.
This is where they were born, into
this nothing, felt first with their cold noses
for the shaggy side and warm bag of black milk,
pulled their trams for twenty years
through pitch, past birds that didn't sing,
through doors opened by five-year-olds
who sat in the cheap, complete blackness
listening for steps, a knock.
And they died down here, generation
after generation.
The last one, when it dies in the hills,
not quite blind, the mines closed forever,
will it die strangely? Will it wonder
dimly why it was exiled from the rest
of its race, from the dark flanks of the soft
mother, what these timbers are that hold up
nothing but blue? If this is the beginning
of death, this wind, these stars?

From Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press, 2014). Reprinted by permission of the poet.




Eurydice

When my wife woke from four months
of coma after a “massive” stroke,
with chances of recovery “minimal,”
and we had finally flown home
in a tiny jet around the polar horn
of Swansea, Cardiff, Reykjavik, Goose
Bay, Toronto, Cleveland, Youngstown,
I sat by her wheelchair in a class
like a kindergarten where kids of all ages
cut colored cloth, stacked blocks,
and pieced puzzles like a map
of the world. When they shook their heads
to lament how she couldn’t remember
anything or speak, I wrote
on a big pad in crayon, “Let us go
then you and I.”
After she had read it aloud,
she went on in her whispery voice
to chant, eyes closed, the rest
of the poem from memory while
the rehab staff in their green
and blue scrubs gathered around
and stood open-mouthed as something
odd and unintelligible, yet
somehow strangely familiar,
came to them from a far place,
deep and dark where she had been,
beyond the reach of light and love.

In 2008, Greenway's poem "Eurydice" appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, which featured 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.

Interview with William Greenway

How did you come to write the poem "Eurydice"?

It began after my wife’s stroke and subsequent two-month coma while we were in Wales on sabbatical.

How did writing "Eurydice" affect your recovery?

All through this trauma, I wrote poems as prayer, believing, as I always have, that poetry taps into a power outside of ourselves as well as inside. Both give us strength we don’t know we have or have access to until the trauma comes along.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped "Eurydice" come to life?

Because I keep a journal, I’m able to objectify my experiences enough to get past mere self-pity and sentimentality and leave a sort of vacuum of emotion to draw in the reader’s emotions. I try not to hog all the feeling, and let the reader have some.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

William Stafford, William Matthews, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin, Sharon Olds.

What are you working on now?

Whatever comes my way. My life seems to follow paths that eventually become patterns that then become the organization of a book. My latest book is titled Tripwires, about those upheavals—some good, some bad—that we never see coming, but that change our lives, and us, irrevocably.


William Greenway

Greenway's collection Everywhere at Once (2008) won the Ohioana Poetry Book of the Year Award, as did his Ascending Order (2003), both from the University of Akron Press. He has published in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. He has won the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors' Prize from Missouri Review, the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer's Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, and was 1994 Georgia Author of the Year. He’s Professor of English at Youngstown State University, where he has been awarded a Distinguished Professorship in Teaching and three in Scholarship.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

William Greenway featured
on Poetry Daily Today

William Greenway's poem "Entrance" is featured at Poetry Daily today. You can find it at Poetry Daily: "Entrance" by William Greenway. The link stays live forever, so if you miss it today, please view it at your leisure.

The poem comes from Greenway's recently released Selected Poems.



"Everything I love about William Greenway's poems is here in spades: the self-effacing wit, the spritely erudition, and the serious charm. Like a wry descendent of Homer who 'woke up human and Baptist in Atlanta, Georgia,' Greenway discerns in the mundane world of barbershops and flu shot lines the guises of the mythic." —Lynn Powell, poet, The Zones of Paradise


William Greenway

Greenway's collection Everywhere at Once (2008) won the Ohioana Poetry Book of the Year Award, as did his Ascending Order (2003), both from the University of Akron Press. He has published in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. He has won the Helen and Laura Krout Memorial Poetry Award, the Larry Levis Editors' Prize from Missouri Review, the Open Voice Poetry Award from The Writer's Voice, the State Street Press Chapbook Competition, an Ohio Arts Council Grant, and was 1994 Georgia Author of the Year. He’s Professor of English at Youngstown State University, where he has been awarded a Distinguished Professorship in Teaching and three in Scholarship.

In 2008, Greenway's poem "Eurydice" appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, which featured 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Collection Bend to it
from Kevin Simmonds


Kevin Simmonds' new collection Bend to it was just released this Spring from Salmon Poetry. Kevin is an award-winning poet and musician who divides his time between San Francisco and Japan, and he's now at work on a theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre in San Francisco. Here's a sample poem from Bend to it.

Tono City, Japan
     December, 2000

Crows against snow

Beauty beaten on these anvils

A sky

Falling apart

Black anchors

Crows hawking

To god

To me

A moment's match

Pushing the light from itself

Pushing the light from its wings

Reprinted by permission of the poet.
From Bend to it (Salmon Poetry, 2014). Buy Bend to it at Salmon Poetry.

Interview with Poet Kevin Simmonds

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?
Lucille Clifton
Richard Ronan

What are you working on now?

My second collection, Bend to it , is out from Salmon Poetry, who also published my debut collection, Mad for Meat.

I'm at work on a new collection, tentatively titled Upright. At the same time, I’m processing Ota Benga, a river, a recent theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre here in San Francisco. I wrote the music and co-wrote the text. It was an eye-opening experience, and I won’t soon forget the challenges of creating a work that draws from Japanese and African-American musical conventions.

Finally, I just wrapped up The Nudists , a short experimental documentary about the nudity ban in San Francisco. I collaborated with designer and artist Nori Hara to create a protest pamphlet about this in 2012, shortly before it became law in February 2013. I’m hoping some film festivals will pick it up.



Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician originally from New Orleans. His books include Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry) and the edited works Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press) and Ota Benga Under my Mother’s Roof (University of South Carolina). He has composed numerous musical works for voice and chamber ensemble, as well as for stage productions such as Emmett Till, a river and the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica. He started the first-ever poetry workshop at Singapore’s Changi Prison and founded Tono International Arts Association, an arts presenter in northern Japan. A recipient of fellowships and commissions from Cave Canem, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright, the Pulitzer Center, San Francisco Arts Commission and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, he divides his time between Japan and San Francisco.

Visit Kevin Simmonds web site.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

After Shocks Poem Reprinted
in Theologian’s New Book

Noted Theologian Walter Brueggemann has used the poem “After Katrina” in his new book Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks. The poem, by Kevin Simmonds, was first published in the journal Callaloo, and was selected and published in the 2008 anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events .

Dr. Brueggemann’s new book presents parallel theological crises arising from two watershed historic events: the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. and the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Both events raise questions about ideologies of “chosen-ness” held by those in power, denial that ideologies have failed, and despair when reality is faced. Dr. Brueggemann conducts a lengthy presentation of those historic ideologies, of grief and denial, and of hope as a counter to despair.

His book is available at Amazon.com Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks

Dr. Brueggemann chose “After Katrina” by Kevin Simmonds for his chapter “Grief Amid Denial” as an example of a lament that is voiced by the powerless in the face of events that they cannot control. He writes (page 84): We may pay attention to the rich legacy of contemporary laments that grieve over the failure of our “system” of well-being. Such laments arise among the excluded, powerless, and vulnerable—not the kind of people who constitute usual church voices. But these voices provide a script that we are able to echo, because such voices match and give freedom to our sadness….consider the following.

After Katrina
By Kevin Simmonds

There’s no Sabbath in this house
Just work

The black of garbage bags
yellow-cinched throats opening
to gloved hands

Black tombs along the road now
proof she knew to cherish
the passing things

even those muted before the water came
before the mold’s grotesquerie
and the wooden house choked on bones

My aunt wades through the wreckage failing
no matter how hard she tries
at letting go

I look on glad at her failing
her slow rites
fingering what she’d once been given to care for

The waistbands of her husband’s briefs
elastic as memory
the blank stare of rotted drawers

their irises of folded linen still
smelling of soap and wood
and clean hands

Daylight through the silent windows
and I’m sure now: Today is Sabbath
the work we do, prayer

I know what she releases into the garbage bags
shiny like wet skins of seals
beached on the shore of this house


Reprinted by permission of the poet.
"After Katrina" appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.

Walter Brueggemann is professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia. His many other books include A Social Reading of the Old Testament, The Threat of Life, Theology of the Old Testament, Truth Speaks to Power, and The Prophetic Imagination.


Interview with Poet Kevin Simmonds, who wrote “After Katrina”

How did you come to write “After Katrina”?

I wanted to create a poem about the experience of helping my Aunt Trina as she tried to salvage things from her home after the levees broke in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Or after the bombing of those levees. Those sloppily designed levees. I knew -- in the moments of wading through the mold and mess with her -- how important that time was. Not too long thereafter she died of cancer.

How did writing “After Katrina” affect your recovery?

The subject of the poem is literally about recovering objects that are imbued with memory. Objects are talismans for memory. Having those objects and the memories surrounding them alongside the poem, something that was created and then recovered in a sense, helps me go on. My mother also lost her home. Everything in it. With this poem, I retain the essence of what was lost in the physical sense.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped “After Katrina” come to life?

This poem was different and came easily compared to other poems. I often fail at this but I want each poem to be an experience of discovery. Something without agenda or predetermined direction. This poem came from my love and admiration for my aunt. If there are resonances beyond my personal history, then it's because of love and admiration.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?
Lucille Clifton
Richard Ronan

What are you working on now?

My second collection, Bend to it , is out from Salmon Poetry, who also published my debut collection, Mad for Meat.

I'm at work on a new collection, tentatively titled Upright. At the same time, I’m processing Ota Benga, a river, a recent theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre here in San Francisco. I wrote the music and co-wrote the text. It was an eye-opening experience and I won’t soon forget the challenges of creating a work that draws from Japanese and African-American musical conventions.

Finally, I just wrapped up The Nudists , a short experimental documentary about the nudity ban in San Francisco. I collaborated with designer and artist Nori Hara to create a protest pamphlet about this in 2012, shortly before it became law in February 2013. I’m hoping some film festivals will pick it up.



Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician originally from New Orleans. His books include Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry) and the edited works Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press) and Ota Benga Under my Mother’s Roof (University of South Carolina). He has composed numerous musical works for voice and chamber ensemble, as well as for stage productions such as Emmett Till, a river and the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica. He started the first-ever poetry workshop at Singapore’s Changi Prison and founded Tono International Arts Association, an arts presenter in northern Japan. A recipient of fellowships and commissions from Cave Canem, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright, the Pulitzer Center, San Francisco Arts Commission and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, he divides his time between Japan and San Francisco.

Visit Kevin Simmonds web site.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"After Katrina"
by Kevin Simmonds

There’s no Sabbath in this house
Just work

The black of garbage bags
yellow-cinched throats opening
to gloved hands

Black tombs along the road now
proof she knew to cherish
the passing things

even those muted before the water came
before the mold’s grotesquerie
and the wooden house choked on bones

My aunt wades through the wreckage failing
no matter how hard she tries
at letting go

I look on glad at her failing
her slow rites
fingering what she’d once been given to care for

The waistbands of her husband’s briefs
elastic as memory
the blank stare of rotted drawers

their irises of folded linen still
smelling of soap and wood
and clean hands

Daylight through the silent windows
and I’m sure now: Today is Sabbath
the work we do, prayer

I know what she releases into the garbage bags
shiny like wet skins of seals
beached on the shore of this house


Reprinted by permission of the poet.
"After Katrina" appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.

Interview with Poet Kevin Simmonds

How did you come to write “After Katrina”?

I wanted to create a poem about the experience of helping my Aunt Trina as she tried to salvage things from her home after the levees broke in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Or after the bombing of those levees. Those sloppily designed levees. I knew -- in the moments of wading through the mold and mess with her -- how important that time was. Not too long thereafter she died of cancer.

How did writing “After Katrina” affect your recovery?

The subject of the poem is literally about recovering objects that are imbued with memory. Objects are talismans for memory. Having those objects and the memories surrounding them alongside the poem, something that was created and then recovered in a sense, helps me go on. My mother also lost her home. Everything in it. With this poem, I retain the essence of what was lost in the physical sense.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped “After Katrina” come to life?

This poem was different and came easily compared to other poems. I often fail at this but I want each poem to be an experience of discovery. Something without agenda or predetermined direction. This poem came from my love and admiration for my aunt. If there are resonances beyond my personal history, then it's because of love and admiration.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?
Lucille Clifton
Richard Ronan

What are you working on now?

My second collection, Bend to it , is out from Salmon Poetry, who also published my debut collection, Mad for Meat.

I'm at work on a new collection, tentatively titled Upright. At the same time, I’m processing Ota Benga, a river, a recent theatrical collaboration with Theatre of Yugen, an experimental Japanese Noh theatre here in San Francisco. I wrote the music and co-wrote the text. It was an eye-opening experience and I won’t soon forget the challenges of creating a work that draws from Japanese and African-American musical conventions.

Finally, I just wrapped up The Nudists , a short experimental documentary about the nudity ban in San Francisco. I collaborated with designer and artist Nori Hara to create a protest pamphlet about this in 2012, shortly before it became law in February 2013. I’m hoping some film festivals will pick it up.



Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician originally from New Orleans. His books include Mad for Meat (Salmon Poetry) and the edited works Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality (Sibling Rivalry Press) and Ota Benga Under my Mother’s Roof (University of South Carolina). He has composed numerous musical works for voice and chamber ensemble, as well as for stage productions such as Emmett Till, a river and the Emmy Award-winning documentary HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica. He started the first-ever poetry workshop at Singapore’s Changi Prison and founded Tono International Arts Association, an arts presenter in northern Japan. A recipient of fellowships and commissions from Cave Canem, Creative Work Fund, Fulbright, the Pulitzer Center, San Francisco Arts Commission and the Edward Stanley Award from Prairie Schooner, he divides his time between Japan and San Francisco.

Visit Kevin Simmonds web site.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Susan Laugher Meyers Reads
From New Collection
This Sunday at Malaprops, Asheville

Susan Laughter Meyers will read from her new collection My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass at the Poetrio Reading Series Sunday, November 3, 3 PM at Malaprops Bookstore, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, NC. Two poems from My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass appear below. Susan will be reading with 2 other poets—Kathy Nelson and Tom Lombardo, who runs this Poetry of Recovery blog. Susan’s poem “That Year,” a deeply moving poem about the year her mother died, appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, a compilation of 152 poems by 115 poets from 15 nations.

That Year
                                —for my mother

by Susan Laughter Meyers

When the black-eyed susans begin to bloom
in the backyard, and the moonbeam coreopsis
bursts into tiny stars, I think of the year

I banished yellow from my life. It was the year
I dug up the lantana, when I didn't plant
narcissus and all the buttery bulbs

but chose white, and a little blue, for the garden
without knowing that I was readying
for two long years of her dying. The next spring

I painted our kitchen, once a lemony gloss, ecru.
I threw out from my closet all the blouses
hinting, from their hangers, of glad canaries.

Beginning that fall I dressed in a dull haze
of beige, toning myself down for the end.
I ignored the incandescence of morning, the amber

of dusk, and leaned to clouds billowed in black.
The week in November she died I loaded the trunk
of my car with flats of pansies, three sacks of bulbs.

I wanted my hands working the dirt, a dark loam
that would spring into jonquils, daffodils—bright
coronas of yellow, and yellow, and yellow.

From Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina, 2006). First published in The Southern Review

Two poems from Susan Laughter Meyers’ new collection My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass



Banding Hummingbirds

                                            San Pedro River, Arizona

                              I, who know little of ornithology,
wear sticker number nineteen. This release,
the last of the day, is mine. Under the awning
the ornithologist at the table puts a straw to her lips
and blows, parting the feathers to check for mites.
There are mites.

                             She cradles the bird in one hand,
sexes it, names the species (Anna’s), and figures
the approximate age. Places it in a miniature sling
and weighs it, wraps the metal band around one leg.
I walk over to the designated grassy area,
both hands in my pockets.

                                         The day is raw.
When it’s time, I hold out a palm, now warm.
The assistant fits the tubes of a stethoscope
to my ears, pressing the disc against my bird.
I hear a low whir, a tiny motor running in my hand.
Up to twelve hundred beats a minute, she says.

                                         I, who know so little,
barely take a breath. My bird’s head is a knob
of red iridescence on the fleshy pad of my hand.
I am nothing but a convenient warming bench,
yet for now I am that bench. Warm.
His breast is thin—bone hollow, she says,

                             where he should be round.
His eyes are dark and still, his feet tucked
behind his body. He lies there, that tiny motor.
I don't think of years ago, my mother, my father—
those I loved who, having lain down, never rose up.
For once, I know the worth,

                             at least to me. What is unknown
is whether this bird in hand will rouse
as he did earlier, pinched between thumb
and index finger and tipped toward a feeder,
when he drank with conspicuous hunger.
You could see the tongue.

—first published in North Carolina Literary Review Online 2013 as a finalist for the 2012 James Applewhite Poetry Prize

Dear Atamasco Lily

Nothing else in the swamp rises beyond
the surprise of you
                         and your sweet repetition.

Your boldness I'd expect of the cottonmouth
sunning by the bald cypress,

your plenitude matched only
                                         by last year's
tent caterpillars, whose droppings,
when they fell,
                           ticked a steady shower.

And what of the music in your name,
hiding your poison?

You are danger, deep-throated cup
lipping the stippled light,
                           brightening the leaf mold.

               Dear red-stained lily. Rain lily.
Zephyr lily. Dear fairy lily.
                                         Wild Easter lily.
My dear, dear stagger grass.

—first published in Linebreak

Interview with Susan Laughter Meyers

How did you come to write this poem?

I was enrolled in the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte, and one day before class several of us were talking about colors and the emotional effect they have on us. I surprised even myself by saying that I had once, for a year or more, banished yellow from my life. Cathy Smith Bowers, poet and instructor, immediately said, “Susan, there’s a poem in that,” and I knew she was right.

The back story is that I had just gone through two years of being responsible for my mother’s care before her death, and during that time yellow was simply too bright for me to invite into my life. It felt falsely cheerful to me.


Susan Laughter Meyers

How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

Once I said out loud that, during my mother’s decline, I had actually rid myself of a color—and one that I had always liked—the poem began to take shape in my mind. It was a freeing experience to put into words what had before existed as only a blur. From the moment I started writing the poem, I knew that it was a fortunate part of my grieving process. Something clicked. I had been aware all along that I had begun to grieve for my mother long before she actually died, and this poem seemed to be proof. It felt hopeful to me to know that I had moved past this difficult time of no yellow.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?

Turning to concrete details—as William Blake advised, “to see a world in a grain of sand.” Had I not tried to name the ordinary traces of yellow that I had banished, I wouldn’t have been able to write the poem. The habit of trying to home in close—to stick to the particulars, to the one brief moment rather than the whole scenario—kept me writing.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I came to poetry mainly through Shakespeare, the Romantics—Byron, Shelley, Keats—Yeats, T. S. Eliot, James Dickey, Sylvia Path, James Wright, Elizabeth Bishop. In more recent years I’ve greatly admired the work of Li-Young Lee, Larry Levis, Jane Hirshfield, Carolyn Forché, Rita Dove, Charles Wright, Tomas Tranströmer, Seamus Heaney, Yusef Komunyakaa, among others. Poets newer to me whom I admire include two poets I’ve studied with, Carol Ann Davis and Emily Rosko; as well as Atsuro Riley, Malena Mörling, Kimberly Johnson, Traci Brimhall, Jude Nutter. And, wait, I can’t forget the three Nicks: Nick Lantz, Nick Flynn, and Nick Laird. Hard to stop naming.

What are you working on now?

Since the completion of my last book I’ve been writing poems influenced in one way or another by Sappho. Too, I've lately been obsessed with the story of my youngest aunt, my namesake, who disappeared years ago. Mostly, though, I like to write poem by poem—whatever comes my way—without aiming myself in a particular direction.

Susan Laughter Meyers, of Givhans, SC, is the author of two full poetry collections: My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass, winner of the inaugural Cider Press Review Editors Prize; and Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press), winner of the inaugural SC Poetry Book Prize, the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her chapbook Lessons in Leaving won the Persephone Press Book Award. Her poetry has also been published in numerous journals—including The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Prairie Schooner—and has been selected to appear in Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships from The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) and the SC Academy of Authors. A long-time writing instructor, she has an MFA degree from Queens University of Charlotte. Follow Susan on her blog.

My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass is available at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

3 Poems of Recovery by Carol Dine



Reconstruction

From his VA hospital bed,
the man motions to the corridor;
his jaw is crooked, wide open
like the entrance to a cave.

In the doorway the boy,
saluting his father,
imagines the white blanket
as new snow. In the yard,

they are making a snowman:
from his father’s pocket,
a piece of coal for the nose,
for the mouth,
the boy sneaks a strand
of Mother’s red yarn.


Refugee
after Andrzej Jackowski

i. A man sleeps
on a wooden plank
under a clump of date palms,
its leaves covering him
like a mother’s arms.

ii. He dreams
of rocket fire,
a river
of black oil
rising through the floor
under a single bed,
what was left
of his house.

On the sun-orange blanket,
bouquets of dried flowers,
tattered.
wife daughter son


Glove

I lost a black fleece glove,
soft, sturdy
under the back seat
on the sidewalk
on the classroom floor
better to have one glove…

I put its mate
in my lingerie drawer
beside the black satin
pear-shape
a woman sold to me,
saying
sorry.

Poems published by permission of the poet.

Interview with Carol Dine

Tell us about these poems.

The poems "Reconstruction" and "Refugee" are from my manuscript in progress, entitled Sutures: Poems of Art and War. In it, I comment on specific war images, including those by Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, Polish exile, Andrzej Jackowski, and British war sculptor, Michael Sandle. In these cases, my poems accompany the images. There are also sections (without images) on women as both victims and survivors of war, and art that was looted by the Nazis, never to be recovered. The manuscript is under review by publishers in the U.K.

The poem "Glove" reflects my fourth bout with breast cancer, which I have survived. Thank GOD.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I’m inspired by and recommend the work of David Ferry, Carol Ann Duffy, John F. Deane, and Genine Lentine.

What are you working on now?
My next book, Orange Night, a collaboration with acclaimed artist and Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, will be published in April, 2014 by Pucker Art Publications and distributed by Syracuse University Press. In Orange Night, I present a dialogue on the subject of the Holocaust. I hope that the cumulative effect of Bak’s paintings and drawings and my poetic commentary transcend the artists’ individual powers and create for the reader an intimate confrontation with history.

The book of twenty-four images and accompanying poems is divided into four sections. In the first section "Orange Night", I want the reader to relive the artist’s memories of the sundered Vilna Ghetto (Lithuania), where his drawings were first displayed when he was nine years old, and from which he escaped with his mother. The second section, “Artist,” portrays the necessity of the arts for survival, redemption. In “Adonai,” I explore the question of God’s absence. In “Afterward,” I attempt to interpret the aftermath of war from the distance of time. In this final section, the reader faces a broken landscape which the artist has been, in my viewview, “cleansed with orange light.”

The book will be an important addition to studies of the Holocaust and WWII, in addition to Art History, Linguistics and Poetry. Bak’s images were be provided by Boston’s Pucker Gallery. Gallery Director, Bernard H. Pucker, enthusiastically supports this book which he calls “extraordinary.”

In addition to Orange Night, I am now working on poems for a collection entitled Resistance, persona poems on women who have resisted war, terror and abuse.




Carol Dine read from her book Van Gogh in Poems (Bitter Oleander Press, 2009) in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum, and in London at the Royal Academy. In 2011, she was awarded a grant from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial fund for her manuscript Sutures: Poems on Art and War. She teaches writing at MassArt & Design, Boston, where she will give the Marjorie Hellerstein Memorial Lecture in April, 2012.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Owl's Head
By Carol Dine

On the first night after you die, we make love.
Your tongue, a sparrow in my mouth.

On the second night, you dye
the white egg of a parrot in beet juice,
scratch snowflakes into the waxy shell.

On the third night, I boil a crow’s blue egg
in vinegar; before it cools, I swallow it whole.

On the fourth night in Owl’s Head,
we lie on the shore; the tide ambles in,
wrapping us in seaweed.
We swim away
together in our green green skin.

Reprinted by permission of the poet. Appeared in the anthology After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.



Interview with Carol Dine

How did you come to write “Owl’s Head”?

The poem came to me quite awhile after my lover, Jon Liutkus, died of a heart attack at age forty.

How did writing this poem affect your recovery?

The writing put me in touch with feelings of love and sensuality I had for him, as opposed to the overwhelming feelings of loss and grief that had distanced me from my poetic voice.


Carol Dine

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this poem come to life?
The setting of the poem, Owls Head, Maine, is a place Jon often visited; it reminded him of Lithuania, the land from which he and his family were exiled; he often wrote me postcards from there, describing its haunting beauty. As for the second and third stanzas, he had told me about the Lithuanian custom of dying Easter eggs. So I put us by the sea, making love, added the sensual waxing ingredients, and my poem was cooked.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

I’m inspired by and recommend the work of David Ferry, Carol Ann Duffy, John F. Deane, and Genine Lentine.

What are you working on now?
My book, Orange Night, collaboration with acclaimed artist and Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, will be published in April, 2014 by Pucker Art Publications and distributed by Syracuse University Press. I’m completing a manuscript entitled Sutures: Poems on Art and War. In it, I comment on specific war images, including those by Holocaust survivor, Samuel Bak, Polish exile, Andrzej Jackowski, and British war sculptor, Michael Sandle; in these cases, my poems accompany the images. There are also sections (without images) on women as both victims and survivors of war; and art that was looted by the Nazis, never to be recovered. The manuscript is under review by publishers in the U.K. I am now working on poems for a collection entitled Resistance, persona poems on women who have resisted war, terror and abuse.


Carol Dine read from her book Van Gogh in Poems (Bitter Oleander Press, 2009) in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum, and in London at the Royal Academy. In 2011, she was awarded a grant from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial fund for her manuscript Sutures: Poems on Art and War. She teaches writing at MassArt & Design, Boston, where she will give the Marjorie Hellerstein Memorial Lecture in April, 2012.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Poems by Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
from her eBook Gathering Light
and Her Thoughts on eBook Publishing



Do You Know About the Raintree?

Do you know about the world’s broad belt?
             They say that in Brazil at the equator
             birdsong fills the heart of the Catrimani
             River. Its bed, teeming with diamonds
             and gold, grows fat with this riot of light.

Do you know about the beehive tombs in Greece?
             Lower yourself by rope into the dark secret.
             If the rope breaks, let your eyes adjust
             to blindness. They say there is a sun
             behind your lids. Climb its ascending
             rays back to the earth’s roar.

Do you know about the rainbow fish?
             Solid black, they ruled the waters
             before earthquakes opened their coffers,
             turquoise, topaz, amethyst, jade
             plummeting into the rivers where
             the eyes of the dark fish shimmered
             as they fed on the earth’s rainbow.

Do you know about the hidden mountains?
             They say that in Tanzania and Kenya
             the mountains warred. Kilimanjaro
             and Mt. Kenya pushed their broad
             shoulders too high into sky.
             Now, whenever they nudge God’s throne,
             his angry breath shrouds their peaks.

Do you know about waters of the Grotto?
             You will find the pool off the coast
             of Italy on Capri. Lie down
             in the boat’s bottom to enter
             the cave’s mouth, then feast on
             a blue mirror that butterflies
             carry here on their wings: pieces
             of sky they gather learning to fly.

Do you know about the raintree?
             There’s a tree, invisible, with a broad
             canopy in the sky. The earth sings to it
             whenever it’s thirsty. They say
             if the song’s loud enough to rise,
             the ripest blooms will break off
             their branches and rinse earth’s
             green cathedral in firstlight and last.

Previously published in Antietam Review and reprinted in Gathering Light (SCOP Publications, Inc., College Park, MD, 1993), “Do You Know About the Raintree?” was recently featured in Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments (Issue No. 21: Winter/Spring 2008: Islands and Archipelagos. The poem was subsequently selected to appear in Best of the Literary Journals.


When Birds Speak

To Shakespeare, they were not isolated objects but living creatures.         — Levi Fox, Shakespeare’s Birds

How can one ignore his chattering pies,
a lapwing close to earth, every goose
cackling, a strutting chanticleer?
They are all there in his drama:
dive dapper, pigeon, woodcock, wagtail—
and among them, such pretty talk.
Did he study birds to see how all
creatures work, how man in his folly
climbs commanding peaks? A vulture
circles, then swoops. In the shadow
of its wings, wren and robin hover
over their young. They are all there.
Swift flight: the swallow points
its wings and ascends while thrush
and jay harmonize with wind.
And the graceful swan, what metaphors
did he see in her: royal birth, music,
majestic curves of the universe?
He must have sat next to her,
away from paper and ink, with her
neck arced like a river’s bend.
He must have seen prisms in those
feathers, prisms in expanded wings.
When the birds spoke the language
of waves, they flew to him out of elm
and ash. Always a triumph: birds
on every branch and the playwright
in his haven learning to sing.

Both poems reprinted from eBook Gathering Light (Northampton House Press, 2013) by permission of the poet.

Interview with Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda about her experience publishing Gathering Light as an eBook, through publisher Northampton House Press.

What is your general feeling about the eBook market? Does it have a future for poetry?

I believe the eBook market has a future for poetry. In fact, there are quite a few reputable publishers—Copper Canyon, Graywolf, Coffee House, BOA—who are moving toward digital publishing. From what I’ve read about this transition, these presses are committed to addressing the issues that cause alarm to poets. Specifically, when the screen size of an electronic device is too small or the font size is too large, a shift will occur in the typographical arrangement of a poem with long or staggered lines. Since form is an important consideration in poetry, the visual display on an electronic device matters. As soon as publishers address these concerns, then the market will attract more poets.


What was your thought process coming to this decision? Difficult? Easy?

Initially, I was hesitant to enter the eBook market, but after discussing the matter with my publisher and editor at Northampton House Press, I decided to give it a try. Since the print version of Gathering Light is no longer available, I wanted to enter a market that would make the book accessible to a large audience. I also considered the fact that many young readers, who are technologically savvy, prefer eBooks. Storing books on a Kindle, Nook, or a Kobo e-reader is more convenient and certainly beats hauling books around in a satchel. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided this was a viable route to take to reintroduce an out-of-print book to the market.

How was it working with your publisher, Northampton House Press? Was there any vetting or acceptance process? Any editing, revision, or other editorial involvement? Or is it close to a vanity press situation, where they publish whatever is sent to them? You have published with other normal presses. How was the eBook process different?

I couldn’t have chosen a better publisher for this project than Northampton House Press. Both the poetry editor and publisher worked closely with me to ensure that the end product was a well-honed work of art. I should point out that this isn’t a vanity press. And there was an acceptance process. I was initially contacted by NHP’s poetry editor, who invited me to submit a current or out-of-print book for consideration. Gathering Light was originally published by SCOP Publications, Inc. of Maryland, which closed its doors a decade ago. The book was always a favorite of mine for its uplifting themes. Here was a chance to reintroduce the work. During the editing process, I made a few minor changes and took out one poem—a translation—which seemed obtrusive. Once the book reached the formatting stage, several of the poems were hand-coded to ensure that the line breaks and stanzaic shifts were honored. At one point I was asked to rework the lineation of four poems with long or indented lines. Although I was hesitant to do so, I soon met the challenge by readjusting the typographical arrangement of each piece. After the manuscript was converted to the e-book format, I was given the chance to proofread the entire work on an e-reader. Thanks to the meticulous oversight of the publisher, all seemed to be in order. However, I realize that issues might still exist for those who download the e-book to a smartphone.

I found the overall publishing process similar to that of working with other presses—with the exception of being asked to re-lineate a few poems to solve display issues on an e-reader. I should also point out that NHP publishes both e-books and print editions.

What was the cost?

I honestly don’t know since the press covered all costs.

Have you sold many books using eBook?

Ask me in a few months. We’re still in the early stages of seeking online reviews to promote the book. All of this is new to me, but thankfully, the press has an intern who will guide me through the process. I just “met” her online a week ago.

Are you happy you’ve taken this step?

Yes. As an older writer, I feel the need to move in the direction that the publishing business seems to be headed. Given the proliferation of writing programs in universities and the growing number of young authors entering the field each year, competition is stiff. And new books are plentiful. Having worked in the past on the editorial board of a small press, I know the challenges of publishing, promoting, and even storing print copies of books. Obviously, it’s easier to store e-books, and hopefully, they’ll remain available for a much longer period of time.


Dr. Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2006-2008. She has published five books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and has two other manuscripts near completion. Her poems have been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes and appear in numerous magazines, including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Best of Literary Journals, Poet Lore, r.kv.r.y. and An Endless Skyway, an anthology of poems by U.S. State Poets Laureate. Her poems also appeared in After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events.Her awards include five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts; a Spree First Place award; multiple awards in Pen Women competitions; a Special Merit Poem in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial contest; a Passages North contest award; an Edgar Allan Poe first-place award; and a Resolution of Appreciation from the State Board of Education for her contributions as Poet Laureate of Virginia. In 2010-2011 she served as a Literary Arts Specialist with Claudia Emerson on a Metrorail Public Art Project, which will integrate literary works, including her own, into art installations at metro stations in Virginia. She recently received the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Ellen Anderson Reader Award for 2012.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Poems After Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
By Carolyn Kreiter Foronda




Frida and Wet Nurse
By Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

You do not nourish me, though you offer your breasts,
                                 A wet nurse,

while my real mother gives birth to a sister.
                                 I do my duty. I sacrifice

Your milk bitter as oleander, I call you Nana.
                                 a suckling infant at home,

I’d rather press my lips to clouds drizzling
                                 shedding tears

over a maze of leaves, engorged veins
                                 buoyant as breath.

feeding insects, giddy with song. Newly born:
                                 Wiggling, you turn from me,

a praying mantis, a monarch sucking fluid from stalks.
                                 obsidian eyes, empty.

Estranged, I refuse to knead your chest,
                                 Disheveled universe,

releasing drops into my half-opened mouth.
                                 crack open this shield.

Indian woman, why won’t you remove your mask?
                                 Reorder this life

As moon candles the stars, cradle me
                                 saturated with providence

so I can fold back time and dream my mother
                                 among splashes of rain,

nurses me, her milk—consecrated by a kiss—
                                 spilling from a holy font.


Diego and Calla Lilies
By Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

             Kneeling on a petate mat,
The basket, deep enough,
             an Indian woman sits upright,
supports our long, firm stems.
             her unclothed frame scented.
We settle into clots of dirt.
             Is it sandalwood? Mahogany?
Like absinthe, we intoxicate
             I paint her broad shoulders:
the artist who shapes the woman’s arms
             earthy dabs of nutmeg, hyacinth
with the mastery of sun
             so she can thrive like the flowers,
so she can embrace us.
             so she can feel the florets swell.
Her hands, smelling of freesia,
             Soon, she will rise out of shadows
reach out to our trumpets blaring
             to gather bluets, yarrows.
as though she hears a mariachi horn,
             What is happiness, if not this need?
feels our desire to return to marshes,
             See how she rests—a saint—holding
watery fields, shallow pools far from
             pearls, luminous as fire?
the lover who approaches a street vendor—
             Now, maybe you understand who I am.
scissor snips ringing through the market,
             In the city, in the valleys,
fleshy tubes and arrow-shaped leaves
             I wander in search of legends
rolled into wrapping paper, sold for a few pesos,
             to begin anew. Oh, these calla lilies!
the blooms’ swanlike hearts pounding.

Both poems reprinted from The Embrace: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (San Francisco Bay Press, 2013) by permission of the poet.


Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

How did you come to write “Frida and Wet Nurse” and “Diego and Calla Lilies” and the entire collection The Embrace: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera?

As a painter, I have long been inspired by the artwork of Diego Rivera and still recall how moved I was when I viewed his paintings ten years ago in a special exhibition at El Museo del Barrio in New York City. In fact, one of the highlighted paintings, Calla Lily Vendor, inspired “Diego and Calla Lilies,” a simultaneous poem, spoken in the voice of both the artist and the calla lilies. I chose the two-voice format to broaden and enrich the interpretation of the painting, which reveals the artist’s empathy for Mexico’s indigenous people.

To deepen my understanding of Rivera and Kahlo, I devoted several years to researching their lives and subsequently traveled to Mexico City on two occasions to view Rivera’s monumental murals, Kahlo’s self-portraits, and each artist’s home and studio. In the Museo Dolores Olmedo, I saw the heartrending painting, My Nurse and I, which prompted me to create “Frida and Wet Nurse.” Here, I sought to depict Kahlo’s longing to be nursed by her own mother, who at the time was caring for a newborn sister. The painting portrays Kahlo in the arms of a wet-nurse, whose face is masked and solemn—a far cry from the devotion the infant sought.

After the research trips, the poems about this celebrated couple emerged relatively quickly. Before long, the collection gained a unified direction and centered on Rivera’s revolutionary stance and on Kahlo’s difficulties with her husband’s infidelities, her physical disability, and her inability to bear children. Despite the intricacies of their relationship, the artists remained devoted to improving the plight of the common man—a goal that remains relevant in today’s world of revolutionary uprisings.

You are also a visual artist. Can you tell us a bit about your work in that field and how it affected your work on The Embrace?

For seventeen years I studied art in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, close to museums where I could examine the techniques of a variety of artists, ranging from Vincent van Gogh to Georgia O’Keeffe. One day in class my professor took me aside and encouraged me to test the realm of experimentation. Jackson Pollack’s non-representational art and Sam Gilliam’s abstract innovations led me to create abstract works that relied on color to speak emotionally to viewers and to move them spiritually. While searching for my artistic voice, I read several art books weekly to shore up my knowledge of other artists’ philosophies and techniques. Rivera and Kahlo were part of this study. Early on, I was drawn to Rivera’s goal to celebrate the indigenous people of Mexico, to highlight their festivals and address their hardships as laborers. I admired his innate ability to capture something as large as the history of Mexico in murals that covered the walls of buildings. I was drawn to Kahlo’s thirst for self-awareness in her portraits that capture the challenges she faced following a childhood illness and a debilitating injury in a bus accident during her adolescence.

My background as an artist equipped me with the tools to more fully understand the artistic renderings and goals of Rivera and Kahlo. As a proponent of ekphrastic poetry, I found this couple’s embrace an appealing metaphor for exploring their lives, political beliefs, and philosophies. As one who thrives on experimentation in both art and poetry, I relied on the two-voice poem and the monologue to draw readers into the book by allowing them to hear the artists telling their own stories. Other speakers include a doll, a mask, calla lilies, vines, or another symbolic object assuming an imagined life of its own in a vibrant painting.

Can you tell us something about your process of writing that helped this collection come to life?

Perhaps the most compelling moment for me was when I settled on the monologue form as a unifying element of the manuscript. I can’t count the number of times I felt as if Diego and Frida were actually speaking through me. Whenever I sat down to write, I transformed myself into another entity to lend credibility to the writing. By immersing myself in Diego’s autobiography and Frida’s letters, I familiarized myself with their voices and sought to reenact vital moments in their lives in much the same way an actor would dramatize a role in a movie or on stage.

Every month or so, I would organize and reorganize the poems that I’d written to date. In time, I started noticing thematic consistencies in the collection. A structure emerged. The poems fell into two sections—the first centering on Diego’s strengths as an artist and his weaknesses as a husband and the other focusing on Frida’s psychological burdens and indisputable gifts as a painter whose unique vision would stand the test of time. The collection solidified when the monologues and dual-voice poems brought to life these world-renowned artists, who shared the mutual goal of social justice for all.

Who are your favorite poets or poets new to you whom you'd recommend to others?

First, let me mention Julie Kane, a poet, whose work I’ve recently read and admire. Julie is Louisiana’s current poet laureate. Her book, Rhythm & Booze, was selected by Maxine Kumin as a 2003 winner in the National Poetry Series. Her poems are light-hearted, yet offer a glimpse into the undercurrents of life in various Louisiana cities. What I admire most is her grasp of formal poetry and her ability to bring it alive in some of the most illuminating villanelles I’ve read in contemporary poetry.

A younger poet, whose work deserves a close look is Dean Rader, author of Works & Days, recipient of the 2010 T.S. Eliot Prize. As one who welcomes experimentation in our genre, I delighted in reading a book, which opened my eyes to new possibilities in form and structure. I applaud Rader’s work for its innovation, its craftmanship, and vision.

One of my all-time favorite poets is Ai, a former professor of mine, whose masterful dramatic monologues led me to explore the form. I could never tire of reading her books, which allow the reader to enter the lives of an array of figures, ranging from Elvis Presley to Alfred Hitchcock. I feel fortunate to have benefited from her guidance.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working with several other poets on collaborative projects. Joyce Brinkman, a well-regarded Indiana poet and former poet laureate of the state, sparked my interest in the kasen renga, a linked verse form originating in Japan. Thus far, we’ve produced several rengas in collaboration with poets from Japan, Germany and Mexico, who have translated our poems into their native languages. We’re hoping a book will emerge from our efforts.

I’ve also collaborated recently with other state poets laureate on a renga project, led by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg of Kansas. During a recent gathering of current and former state poets laureate in New Hampshire, Caryn launched this effort.

Simultaneously, I’m working on poems that center on the intricate role nature plays in my life. As a resident of eastern Virginia, the year 2011 stunned us with the residual effects of an earthquake, a tornado, and a hurricane—natural disasters that have sparked poems exploring the environmental consequences.

Dr. Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2006-2008. She has published five books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and has two other manuscripts near completion. Her poems have been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes and appear in numerous magazines, including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Best of Literary Journals, Poet Lore, and An Endless Skyway, an anthology of poems by U.S. State Poets Laureate. Her awards include five grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts; a Spree First Place award; multiple awards in Pen Women competitions; a Special Merit Poem in Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial contest; a Passages North contest award; an Edgar Allan Poe first-place award; and a Resolution of Appreciation from the State Board of Education for her contributions as Poet Laureate of Virginia. In 2010-2011 she served as a Literary Arts Specialist with Claudia Emerson on a Metrorail Public Art Project, which will integrate literary works, including her own, into art installations at metro stations in Virginia. She recently received the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Ellen Anderson Reader Award for 2012.