Friday, December 13, 2019

AWP International Experimental Poetry Panel on ALTA Blog

Thanks to ALTA, the American Literary Translators Association, for listing our AWP event, Translating the the Untranslatable: A Reading of International Experimental Poetry with Marc VincenzHelene CardonaJennifer Kwon Dobbs, Michele Gil-Montero and moderated by me, on their blog.

Translation Events at AWP20

Planning to come to San Antonio from March 4 – 7, 2020 for the Association for Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference to enjoy North America’s largest literary conference? Then be sure to check out this list of translation-related events! Take a peek and get planning today. 
Thursday, March 5, 2020

9:00 am to 10:15 am
Room 211, Henry B. González Convention Center, Meeting Room Level. Translating the Untranslatable: A Reading of International Experimental Poetry. (Larissa Shmailo, Marc Vincenz, Hélène Cardona, Michelle Gil-Montero, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs) From the manifestos of Breton to the wordplay of Stein to the fantastical lines of Borges, avant garde movements have always driven poetry into revolutionary directions. This panel offers a panoramic view of international experimental poetries by noted world translators from French, German, Korean, Russian, and Spanish (Latin American) poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. Intercultural and intersectional issues in translation will be discussed as panelists read from a range of avant poetries.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

2019 Lit Roundup, with Gratitude

What a whirlwind year 2019 has been ! I have been honored to read with amazing poets and wrtiers this year at AWP and on tour for my new novel, SLY BANG. We blew up sex writing in Portland with Thaddeus Rutkowski, Jonathan Penton, Cecilia Tan, and the iconic Erica Jong; we auteured poetry editorship with Kwame Dawes, Marc Vincenz, Michael Anania, and Sam Truitt.
Wonderful Russians and Americans alike helped me celebrate SLY BANG this year - supporting my "psychosexual feminist ebullience " were readings by Annie Finch, Ron Kolm, Irina Mashinski, Anton Yakovlev, Regina Khidekel, Don Yorty, Anna Halberstadt, Andrey Gritsman, Thaddeus generously again, Dean Kostos, Michael T. Young, Stephanie Strickland, Alexander Veytsman, Elizabeth L. Hodges and the late great Steve Dalachinsky, who read on my birthday and picked (of course) the most experimental section to perform, brilliantly. Deep thanks to all the SLY BANG reviewers, incuding Jeff Hansen, Baron Drave, Kimberly Rae Lorenz-Copeland, and MCQ Michael W McHugh!
Many great pubs, including Annie Finch's upcoming blockbuster anthology, Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, Bernard Meisler's Sensitive Skin anthology, Anna Halberstadt's Russian edition of the Cafe Review, the St. Petersburg Review, KGB Lit, and many more. And unexpected and wonderful, thanks to Marie C Lecrivain for nominating me for Sundress Best of the Net in creative nonfiction!
Deep respect and love to my co-ediitor and legendary Russian translator, Philip Nikolayev, for his contributions to our new anthology, From Pushkin to Pussy Riot: Russian Political Poetry and Prose, as well as to our remarkable poets, essayists, and translators; blessings upon Virginia Konchan of for hosting us wild Slavs.
Next year brings new forays into international experimental poetry, immigrant literature and the politics of resistance, more SLY BANG events, and vigorous political activism. Until then, happiest of holiday seasons and best literary wishes!

Thursday, November 28, 2019



Ulysses – James Joyce
I imitate him; if I have any originality, it comes out, and if not, what could be better than more hydraheaded Joyce?
Mark Twain
His story, “”How I Edited an Agricultural Paper,” lifted me out of a clinical depression.
Anna Karenina – Tolstoy
I love how the writer in T, the great writer, made this novel more than the morality play he first intended; I fantasize Anna, brilliant and innovative, alive, if T could have take the next step.
David Markson
The erudite one-sentence wonders of his unique narratives partly inspired my short story -poem – genre bending “Mirror, or a Flash in the Pan.”
John Donne – “Go and Catch a Falling Star”
Beautiful masculine trochees; I love Donne’s dirty prosody.

Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, translator, editor, curator, and critic. Her new novel is Sly Bang; her first novel is Patient Women. Her work is included in the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian. Please see more about Shmailo at

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

"Fitness," or Why I Have No Children

Thanks to Marie LeCrevain of poetic diversity-the litzine of LA, for publishing "FITNESS." 

The definition of fitness in genetics is to reproduce successfully. I have no genetic fitness. I did once: my genetic material was carried by my sister’s daughter, my godchild and niece, Irene, whom I raised and let down. She committed suicide at the age of 35. She was a psychiatrist who knew pharmacology well and a determined individual who said that if she were to kill herself, she would do it so that no one would know. And so she did.
        As a young woman, I seemed to want to get pregnant pretty badly. I had many boyfriends and did not use birth control. Mentally ill and quite alcoholic, I had three abortions, two by a kind brilliant father and one by either of two men, a pockmarked writer or a mediocre bassist. It never occurred to me to tell the kind brilliant father, with whom I had a long-term relationship, about the pregnancies; my mother said he would not want to know and I accepted that. It turned out she was right.
    I had a complete nervous breakdown at the time of my third abortion, with a vivid hallucination of a brown, curly-headed fetus, the subject of my poem “Abortion Hallucination”:

Abortion Hallucination

A vision of a snake with glowing red eyes
formed by the light of garbage trucks and screeching new cars
driven by men who had once bought me dinner
then hated me when I didn’t want to fuck them twice.

Carlight passing late at night on a street of an ugly
precinct lying deceiving the unwary who think it leads home

It is late so dark it is almost light that time of night when
the light hits the metal and the glass of summer windows left ajar
make me want something someone I don’t know who

The metal gate to the yard refracts this message via Queens boys who
drive too fast too late at night refracts this message to the window where
I watch from the couch

In the corner of the basement where my father used to lie I

Watch, interested, as the snake
grows larger and more menacing I am
taken slightly aback but remember him remember that I like
handling snakes and smile
and as always he softens grows smaller
becomes a hippopotamus I have won again I have stared him down
made him warm
and the Nile gives up its life to me
animals carnivorous and calm come home to me
two by two

I watch for the longest time
until the largest fills the window with his face
black as light
Agnus Dei

for this man’s baby for this man’s baby for this man’s baby
came the flood.

    I contented myself with being my niece’s crazy aunt, and she idolized me as a child. Later, as she saw my feet of clay, the hero worship ended and she became more distant, going about med school and being married and becoming rich. Around then, in my thirties, sober and functioning on a successful med combo, I saw I might have the chance not to totally wreck a poor child’s life. I had an intense desire to have a child. The problem was that I would need to come off my teratogenic medications. I tried: I was stark raving mad for three years until I finally gave the idea up.
    I became more committed and involved as a poet and sublimated my reproductive instincts. And there was still my niece, brilliant and successful. Until the call in the middle of the night in October twelve years ago from my sister: “Lora, Irene is dead.” Dead. I was sober and I couldn’t smoke, but my sister and I hit every IHOPS in the suburbs of San Francisco, eating ourselves into a coma during the funeral and the wake. I gained 50 pounds that autumn.
    My pen doesn’t flow for Irene – the ink drips slowly and meagerly, like clotted blood. I am aware that I am not her mother and don’t have a mother’s right to grieve. But I can still feel her tiny hands pulling on the hairs of my arms as I cradled her infant form to sleep, can remember baptizing her, remember telling her the plot of Hamlet when she was five, watching her read all of Dickens (why Dickens?), hearing her call out “help me, Mama!” during a brutal depression, seeing the cut marks on her teenaged wrists.

Aerial View of the Rockies

The gods like to trace their fingers in the world;
like leaves from a primordial tree, landforms
bare their veins. Clever of her to suicide this way
leaving no one but me to know. Impassive as
the dead face she wanted no one to see, clouds
hide rigor in the lines, purposeful or not, below.
In winter, sunrise looks like sunset in this distant
land, soon to be nearer, nearer, soon.

    Near the end of her life, my mother, given to bursts of anger, carefully prepared and delivered a measured speech to me and my sister, to each of us separately. She quietly and sincerely stated that if she had it to do over, she would not have had children. It was important to her that her daughters know this. I thought for a moment that perhaps she was consoling me for my childlessness, but that would have been another woman, not my Mama.
    I have no nuclear family now – Mama, Papa, my sister Tamara, and my niece and godchild Irene are dead. I quickly sold the family home last year, but am haunted by it in my dreams. And I have no fitness, no genetic material except my cousins’ daughters, bright, pretty, too distant for me to care. I have buried everyone, and have no one to bury me; I counted on Irene for that, and she would have done me proud. But I suppose when the time comes, I won’t be in the condition to mind.

Larissa Shmailo's latest novel is Sly Bang.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

My Writing Day - Entry at rob mclennan's Blog

Larissa Shmailo’s Writing Day:
5:00 am: I love it when I wake up early in the morning; this time seems more mine than any other. I weigh myself—the scale hasn’t moved but I am patient. I am obese, but less so by some 30 pounds now, and every day is a new adventure. This week I broke out of my couch-to -computer life to walk in the park and along Broadway for several miles. I am abstaining from my binge foods, sugar and flour, and every day I bend and turn my big body in joyful remembrance of motion. I am coming out of food fog and experiencing the pink cloud of addictive withdrawal.
Next, I do what I have always done – check my analytics. Did someone look at my blog? My Wikipedia page? My Facebook? My Twitter? Did something pending get published? Like Roland Barthes, who once wrote to me (yes, truly) J'écris pour être aimé de loin, I also write to be loved from afar, and to be read.
5:30, thereabouts:  I meditate on positive affirmations as I have done for years. Mixed in there are my literary ambitions—I visualize reading at the 92nd Street Y, of being published in The Paris Review.  I also remember David Foster Wallace who had every award and pub I could ever covet and who killed himself, and I affirm for less glittering but more durable qualities like gratitude, joy, humility, and love.
7:00 am: My poetry partner likes my new poem, “Over 35.” It is an interleaving of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXXV with answering lines about infidelity. This is a gut poem; it proceeded from an ache in my body that could not be denied. Lying on the couch, I asked, “Can I write this later?” No, my gut replied, now. I decide I will send it to Poetry;  I have received my last rejection and it is time again. I bundle my Submittable, write my cover letter with my too-long bio, and send. It is done; I can forget about it for another six months.
9:00 am: What has Trump done now? I watch the news addictively. A child of parents persecuted by Stalin and interned in concentration camps by Hitler, I see the rise of fascism in the United States, of shameless, Goebbels-style propaganda – make the lie big, keep it simple enough for your stupidest follower, repeat it often, get others to repeat it. Sinclair has eaten Tribune and tells people on local news between the sports and the weather that Obama was funded by Hamas . . . this is the time writers earn their keep, as Toni Morrison said, these are the times we go to work.
11:00 am: My side hustle – I am a freelancer, write, ghost, do social media, edit, whatever I can to support my literary jones.  For the past year, I have gotten work as a terminologist, a creative namer for advertising—I come up with names like Xarelto and Aviator for products, organizations, and services. This is one corporate gig where being a poet is not cause to be thrown out of the interviewer’s office—creativity with language is prized and paid astonishingly well. Today, I name a banking data platform; they want names that connote reliability, innovation, flexibility, data science. I knock out 100 names according to their parameters, real words lightly coined, and feel gratitude for the easy money.
3:00 pm: My current project is a screenplay adaptation of my autobiographical hard-knocks novel, Patient Women. I am becoming acutely aware that I know very little about this genre, but for now, am trying to get the recovery from alcoholism, bipolar disorder, sex addiction and second-generation Holocaust survival all into 110 loosely packed pages in something that resembles the conventional format of a writing discipline that values conventional structures. To my surprise, I am succeeding and have gotten the war story all in with plenty of room for the recovery, although several chapters, characters, and subplots have had to be jettisoned or conflated. I am halfway through the roughest of rough drafts, and know I will have to go back to set up each shot visually, not verbally, and to edit mercilessly. How the hell am I going to sell this? I haven’t the foggiest; I am banking on, if I write it, the agent will come.
Evening. I didn’t procrastinate or binge today, a good day. More news, friends, sleep at a decent hour. Something to do, to look forward to; work and love, Freud said. It is a good life and I, woman of a thousand diagnoses, do not take a second of it for granted.
 Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, translator, editor, curator, and critic. Her new novel is Sly Bang; her first novel is Patient Women. Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country, #specialcharacters, In Paran, A Cure for Suicide, and Fib Sequence. Her poetry albums are The No-Net World and Exorcism, for which she won the New Century Best Spoken Word Album award. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the first Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych, performed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Garage Museum of Moscow, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and theaters and universities worldwide. Shmailo also edited the online anthologies Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and From Pushkin to Pussy Riot: Russian Political Poetry and Prose. Her work is included in the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian. Please see more about Shmailo at

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


As a Ukrainian American, my heart bleeds for the country of my parents' origin, caught for centuries between powerful nations greedy for its resources as it fights for its autonomy and freedom. Since the time of the kholodomor, the mass starvation of the thirties caused by Stalin's collectivization of Ukraine's rich farmland, Russia has annexed or sought to annex its neighbor, causing dubious alliances and foreign-bred corruption. Хай живе Україна, long live a Ukraine, neither Trump nor Russia-facing, but of self-determination and democracy.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Modern Russian Poetry in Translation - Reading 11/2

Saturday, November 2, 2019 @ 2 - 5pm
Larissa Shmailo with Anna Halberstadt, Anton Yakovlev, many others 
Modern Russian Poetry in Translation (the Cafe Review)
Tomkins Square Library
331 East 10th Street, NYC

Thursday, October 31, 2019


The AWP 2020 event schedule is out! Please include our panels in your planning. See you in San Antonio!
Event Title: Translating the Untranslatable: A Reading of International Experimental Poetry with Helene CardonaJennifer Kwon Dobbs, Michele Gil-Montero, and Marc Vincenz, moderated by Larissa Shmailo
Scheduled Day: Thursday, 3/5/20
Scheduled Time: 09:00:AM–10:15:AM
Scheduled Room: Room 211, Henry B. González Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
Event Title: What Kind of Times Are These? Immigrant Poets and the New Politics of Resistance with Valzhyna MortAnna HalberstadtLarissa Shmailo, and Mariya Deykute, moderated by Olga Livshin.
Scheduled Day: Thursday, 3/5/20
Scheduled Time: 03:20:PM–04:35:PM
Scheduled Room: Room 214B, Henry B. González Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Sunday, October 27, 2019


Dear friends:
A sad time as we say goodbye to two beloved Steves, steve dalachinsky and Steve Cannon. Vechnaia pamiat’, eternal memory for these remarkable poets, whose inspiration and support for my work was incalculable.
• I am reading my translations of Maria Galina on November 2 at the Tompkins Square Library, 331 E 10th St, New York at 2:00 pm, for the special Russia issue of The Café Review with editor Anna Halberstadt, Philip Nikolayev, Anton Yakovlev and others.
• My essay, “I Blame Louise Hay for Trump” is included in the anthology Sensitive Skin Selected Writings 2016-2018 edited by Bernard Meisler. Read it here:…/
• You can read the great Rain Taxi review by Jefferson Hansen of my new novel, Sly Bang, here:
• I am delighted to be on two panels for AWP20 in San Antonio next year. I will be moderating a reading of international experimental poetry, “Translating the Untranslatable,” with Hélène Cardona, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Michele Gil-Montero, and Marc Vincenz; I’ll be a participant on “What Kind of Times Are These: Immigrant Poetry and the New Politics of Resistance” moderated by Olga Livshin, with Mariya Deykute, Anna Halberstadt, and Valzhyna Mort. Detailed outlines of these events are now available on the AWP website, so please check them out and include us in your AWP planning.
• If you missed it, read over 30 contemporary and historic voices in From Pushkin to Pussy Riot: Russian Political Poetry and Prose at in this timely anthology co-edited by Philip Nikolayev and me. Don’t leave the colluding to the Trumps and Putins!
Hope to see you all soon!

Saturday, October 19, 2019


It's out! The Sensitive Skin Anthology of writings 2016-2018 featuring the likes of Chavisa Woods, Bob Holman, the late great steve dalachinsky and yours truly plus a cast of thousands is here - my essay "I Blame Louise Hay for Trump" is included. Thanks to editor/publisher Bernard Meisler for assembling this fab work!

Monday, October 14, 2019


Read Meredith Sue Willis's great review of SLY BANG in Books for Readers #204!
And now for something completely different-- a new novel by Larissa Shmailo, continuing her themes that include feminism, female sexuality, power struggles, and a family that may have collaborated with the Nazis, but also suffered hugely themselves. She writes again about a powerful, debilitating combination of sex addiction and sexual abuse. This time she does it with a rollicking, often comic (and comic book style) fantasy/science fiction story.
Her main character is Nora, a psychologically damaged but uber-resilient hero who spends a lot of time in a coma, drugged, or otherwise disabled-- because the bad guys and the good guys are all and constantly aware of her power and trying to channel it, or kill it, for their own purposes..
The neat psycho-spiritual trip here is that Nora remains through all the abuse and danger and rising one more time to rejoin the battle--a deeply Christian character--that is, not that she particularly practices Christianity or even believes in God, but she is committed to forgiving and loving. Her special bailiwick is vicious serial killers like her sometimes charming. occasional savior Michael, whose idea of a special treat is sex with dead, young vaginas. But he is NOT, he insists, a pedophile. Michael is, like Nora, a multiple personality.
This novel, not surprisingly, has some of the quality of a fever dream, and one could imagine at any moment being awakened and told it was, indeed, all a nightmare, but that is never the point. The point is the ride, the changes, the themes played and dropped and played again. It picks up momentum throughout, and the final section moves into even faster changes, ending with short dispatches from an action packed summary, with more flips and twists. Nora triumphs in the end, offering us a poem in which she entertains Satan himself.
Larissa Shmailo’s Sly Bang is a futuristic hallucinogen of a novel that pervades your consciousness. Our heroine Nora could be the love child of Barbarella and Hunter S. Thompson if she grew up to be a telepathic FBI agent. Her story will make you wonder if all wars are truly fought on the battle....

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