Saturday, August 01, 2015

Terrific review of #specialcharacters in The Brooklyn Rail

I'm thrilled at Chris Campanioni's brilliant review of my poetry collection, #specialcharacters.  Let me know what you think! 

Brooklyn Rail review of #specialcharacters

Friday, July 31, 2015

Moderating a Panel on "Metrical Illiteracy" at AWP16 in LA

I was delighted to learn that my proposal, "Endangered Music: Formal Poetry in the 21st Century," has been accepted to AWP 16's program in LA.  The all-star panel includes Annie Finch, Timothy Steele, Amanda Johnston, and Dean Kostos.  Our topic follows.

What are the consequences of what Brad Leithauser has termed the "metrical illiteracy" of contemporary poetry in the U.S.? Poetry readership here has diminished, in contrast to the vitality of poetry in countries where formal poetry is strong. Offering controversial views from a now minority aesthetic, panelists will discuss why basic knowledge of metrical analysis and prosody has waned and why accentual forms such as spoken word are popular.  We will demonstrate the essential role of music in poetry today and as a tool vital to understanding poetry of the past.

If you are in LA next AWP, I invite you to join us.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Evan Myquest's Review of My New Novel, Patient Women

Evan Myquest's review of my new novel, Patient Women (thank you, Evan!)
I thought this book looked me in the eye and dared me to keep up. There are times I wished Ms. Shmailo was a less gifted storyteller as her protagonist Nora's turbulent history accumulated detail by detail, a brick by brick walling in of her life. With a symphonic score-like style complete with spiraling themes and backtracking recapitulations (a tiny mercy in case the reader lost pace), there is no doubt a master is at work. There is even an appendix of brilliant poetry that becomes a jazzband distillation, a coda, of the generational storylines. If you have read Ms. Shmailo before, this is everything you have waited for in a novel by her. And so much more.
Larissa Shmailo’s Patient Women tells the story of Nora, a gifted young woman who comes of age in New York against heavy odds. Her Russian mother is demanding; the young men around her are uncaring; and her dependence on drink and sex...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rant Alert: Abraham Hicks

Rant alert: Is there something about people who can speak volubly in long impassioned spurts that is attractive? I am listening to Abraham Hicks, the teacher of the well-loved Louise Hay, and he/she/it orates that way, as Hitler did (Abraham is an non-corporeal energy being, channeled by a woman called Ester). In essence, Abraham advises that you seek your bliss and vibrate at that "frequency" to manifest everything you want, which is being stored up for you in a personal "vortex." You must always remain on a "high disc." Helping others, quoth this rather Ayn Randian alien, causes you to leave the "high flying disc" and you must seek to "inspire" others rather than lend a hand.

I love Louise Hay and much this Abraham says has merit. But both suggest constant positive emotion. If a situation is bad, then affirm it is good. A belief in a negative government, says Louise, perpetuates said; affirm the Tea Party is loving and honorable. Don't watch the news, Abraham and Louise advise, even as armed militias are walking our streets. Let the enormous yachts and conspicuous consumption of the wealthy give you pleasure; if you don't admire the rich, you might not become one of them. Don't look at statistics about poverty, and don't be codependent and slip from your high disc by wondering how many meals-on-wheels the wealth in that yacht might buy.

I like positive thinking as much as the next poet, but constant meditation on unreal thoughts, saying what is bad is good, is Orwellian doublethink, doublespeak. And it may be in the better interest of some of us to help one another than lose ourselves in atomizing and alienating new age philosophies. I am not saying that Louise Hay and Abraham are tools of the powers that be, but they are a great help to them.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

My novel, Patient Women, is up on Amazon!

Buy Patient Women

Larissa Shmailo’s Patient Women tells the story of Nora, a gifted young woman who comes of age in New York against heavy odds. Her Russian mother is demanding; the young men around her are uncaring; and her dependence on drink and sex leads her to a shadowy life filled with self-made demons. Yet Nora’s intelligence pulls her through the difficult times—there are even moments of (very) dark humor here. As well, an appendix of poems attributed to Nora lets us into the corners of her heart and mind.
—Thaddeus Rutkowski, author of Haywire

Larissa Shmailo’s novel, Patient Women (and the title is absolutely meaningful, in so many ways), is a brutally honest wrestling match of truth-telling and sex. I had to put this book down and walk away from it more than once; it was a bit like holding a hot coal in my hands. And even though the subject matter is over the top, the writing is stylistically brilliant. Absolutely recommended!
—Ron Kolm, author of Suburban Ambush and editor, Evergreen Review

Larissa Shmailo's Patient Women explores the intersection of mind and body, posing several compelling philosophical questions to the reader: Is gender biological or do we inscribe these social categories through our use of language? Is it possible to separate one's intellect from one's physical being? To what extent is language itself tactile and embodied? As Shmailo teases out possible answers to these questions, she utilizes a variety of literary forms, which include diary entries, appendices, poems, and vignettes. Formally adventurous and engaging, Shmailo's book is as artfully written as it is thought provoking, offering us stylistic innovation that is both daring and meaningful.
—Kristina Marie Darling, author of Scorched Altar: Selected Poems & Stories 2007-2014.

Christ-figures are likely to be cross-dressers in this engaging bildungsroman, which takes us on a wild ride through NYC nightclubs of the 1970's, rock-bottom blackouts, a whorehouse, and the slogan-filled rooms of recovery. Surreal and lyrical, then bawdy and riotous, then plainspoken and tragic, Patient Women had me rooting hard for its lovable, drowning heroine to keep her head above water and let in grace.
— Anne Elliott,

Nora, born to a holocaust survivor mother, finds herself, at the threshold of adolescence in “boring Queens”. Lying about her age, her first transgression from her mother’s iron rule, she begins a series of ill-fated attempts to put distance between herself and the familial web she so desperately wants to disentangle from. She reels from one dysfunctional relationship to another, druggies, pimps, losers and masochists, searching for her lovable self. This novel unfolds in a whirlwind that is sometimes dream, sometimes nightmare yet, at it’s core, is an honest tale of one woman’s coming to terms with her past in order to claim her present. Be ready to have your heart broken and then made whole.
—Bonny Finberg, author of Kali’s Day

Larissa Shmailo’s newest work, Patient Women, is an unflinching exploration of the lasting damage some people can inflict on their children. Nora, Shmailo’s protagonist, evolves as she struggles to understand and heal her own self-hatred and her on-going self-destructive choices. Slogging one's way through a morass of denial and repression is a strong trope throughout this raw, honest book. Nora is fiercely vulnerable and the sympathetic hero of her own salvation. This novel is dark, but there is hope that even the pain one lives through can cause one to create, finally, lasting and beautiful art.
—Joani Reese, author of Dead Letters (Cervena Barva Press) and Night Chorus, forthcoming from Lit Fest Press

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Happy Bloomsday! Ulysses Erasure Poems


past Nichols' the undertaker's. Eleven, daresay.

Sent his right hand with slow grace over his hair:  
Where was the chap I saw in that picture somewhere?  
Ah, in the dead sea, floating on his back; 
It's a law like that. Curriculum. Crack.
It's the force of gravity of the earth is the weight.
Per second, per second. Postoffice. Too late.

Eleven, is it? I only heard it last night.
What's wrong with him? Dead. And, he filled up, all right.

Chloroform. Laudanum. Sleeping draughts. Phlegm.
Better leave him the paper and get shut of him.


Bloomsday poem #2:

Legs shot off by cannon balls,
Ending their days in some pauper ward;
If I had served my God as I had my king,
It was probable he would certainly call.

Pilate, old back that owlin mob; but one

should be charitable, according to their lights
Unfortunate, people to die unprepared, 
Excessive for a journey so short and cheap.
A thousand casualties. And heartrending scenes.
Human eyes: pleading. Sanktus! Amen.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Tarkovsky, Kline, Cassian, and the Spiritual Value of Translation - Review of the 4th Annual Compass Award Ceremony

(Published in the Russian American Cultural Center newsletter)

Now in its fourth year, The Compass Award for best translation of a Russian poet has quickly become one of the most prestigious awards in translation. Under the auspices of the noted journal Stosvet/Cardinal Points (co-published by MadHat) and with a distinguished panel of judges and supporting institutions, the Compass competition invites and receives sparkling English-language translations of Russian poetry from around the world. Competitions have focused on well-known poets such as Marina Tsvetaeva, and others less known in the United States, such as Nikolai Gumilyov, husband of the renowned Anna Akhmatova, who met his untimely death at the end of a Cheka firing squad in 1921; Maria Petrovykh, beloved of the great Osip Mandelstam; and Arseny Tarkovsky, friend and fellow student of Petrovych’s and father of the famous filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

This year’s Compass Award and launch of Issue 4 of Cardinal Points, celebrated at Poets House (New York), was dedicated to the translation of poems by Tarkovsky, whose earthy and spiritual verse is popular in Russia but little known among English readers. Although he began writing in the 1920s, Tarkovsky’s first collection, Before the Snow, did not appear until 1962, when it was praised by Akhmatova as “an unexpected and precious present to the reader.” Critics consider Tarkovsky an essential bridge between the Russian Silver Age (from the late 19th to early 20th century) and the post-Stalin Thaw under Nikita Khrushchev. (Unlike Gumilyov, Tarkovsky managed to escape execution for penning an acrostic poem about Lenin in 1921).

Mastering Tarkovsky’s rhythmic and mesmerizing verse were this year’s winners, Laurence Bogoslaw (United States), who took first prize, nonagenarian Nora Krouk (Australia), who took second place and was an honorable mention winner in the Petrovych competition, and Igor Mazin (United States), who took third place, as well as Misha Semenov and Eugene Serebryany (both United States) who became  honorable mention recipients. The award ceremony also included a reading by celebrated Russian, American, and international poets and translators. Introduced by National Endowment Translation Award winner Alex Cigale, the poets and translators included Cigale, Polina Barskova, Sibelan Forrester, myself, and Alexander Veytsman, Compass Director.

The reading also honored the departed literary giants, poet, translator, journalist, and film critic Nina Cassian, and scholar, translator and Compass judge George Kline, who is considered responsible for bringing Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky to the attention of the English-speaking world. Cassian’s life and contributions to international letters were honored by a talk and reading of her work by her husband Maurice Edward. It was my honor to speak about George Kline, with whom I had the privilege of corresponding at the end of his life. Despite his continued dedication at the age of 93 to the translation of Brodsky’s work, Kline took the time to review my translation of Alexander Pushkin’s “Ia vas liubil” (“I loved you once”) and to school me on Russian prosody. In his final e-mail to me, he wrote of the spiritual value (dukhovnaia tsennost’) of a poem’s meter for the translator, a value honored by the Compass Award ceremony on this unforgettable afternoon.
The evening was hosted by poet Irina Mashinski, the StoSvet/Cardinal Points editor-in-chief, Alexander Veytsman, the Compass Award Director, and Regina Khidekel, the director of the Russian American Cultural Center. It was co-sponsored by the Russian-American Cultural Center, the Cardinal Points Journal, and Cardinal Points’  co-publisher MadHat Press.

Stanford Universuty | Book Haven Slavic - memorial for George Kline

Thursday, June 04, 2015

My novel, Patient Women, now available for pre-order from BlazeVOX [books]

"Patient Women is a searing ride of sex and substance addiction through Woodstock, the punk rock era, and the ‘90s to recovery. The protagonist Nora takes us through whorehouses, mental institutions, A.A. meetings, guerilla AIDS clinics and an army of lovers.  Her unique relationship with a transgender sponsor leads her out of her journey through the night."

   order here

Saturday, May 30, 2015

I'm in a table of contents with Blake, Auden, and Akhmatova

Thrilled to have my poem "In Paran" in the dipodic section of this beautiful Everyman's Library  / Penguin Random House metric anthology edited by Annie Finch and Alexandra Oliver.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Poetry by the Sea Conference

Really looking forward to the Poetry by the Sea Conference in Madison, CT,  right on Long Island Sound. Any poet blogfriends planning on being there? copy.htm