Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy 450th, Will!

Gulielmus, filius Johannes Shakespeare, was baptized in Stratford on April 26,1564; April 23 is traditionally celebrated as his birthday. Here is my favorite sonnet, number XXXV.

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authórizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense—
Thy adverse party is thy advocate—
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence.
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an áccessory needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy birthday, Vladimir Nabokov! Poem for Ada

désolé de ne pas être avec vous

mood: like a monarch’s genitalia
labeled under glass, I miss yo(u).
when did you stop being my brot-
(her), my lover, my tramp, my sc(
am)p? Best incest, this fraternal/
maternal. Royalty did this, scions.
Now we are husband, huffed, and
Hera-scarum-wife-and-strife. désolé
de ne pas être avec vous today and
as we were, hymn/her, heard.

Poem for Earth Day: revery about intoxicated turtles

the fruit has turned again
alcohol fragrant
smile at the thought of them
lolling on a beach
inverted and drunk and certain of
turning right side again
every wave an ally

tomorrow the eggs will hatch and the young will
race to the sea, Darwinically pursued
by rapacious winged predators
half will die the rest will find the sea
and live

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Traditional Russian Easter Greeting

Христос воскресe! (Khristos voskres)
(Christ has arisen! This is the traditional Russian Easter greeting.)

Воистину воскресе! (Voistinu voskrese)
(Indeed, He has arisen! This is the traditional response.)

Plus three kisses, one cheek, two cheek, and back again (the kisses are essential).

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guest blog on We Wanted to Be Writers

Thanks to Cheryl Olsen for asking me to share my favorite books.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

First Review of #specialcharacters

Thanks to Meredith Sue Willis for her review of #specialcharacters in Books for Readers #169 (April 17). She writes:

I thought this was going to be all poetry, but it is much more experimental than that, ending with a wonderful piece about a woman who is close to the end of the line with aging, mental illness, and poverty. It's called "MIRROR, or a Flash in the Pan." It is very close to fiction, although it certainly has passages of poetry. It's an excellent piece, crystal clear and shockingly honest. The collection also includes what is rightfully maybe Shmailo's most famous (popular?) poem, available to read on line, "The Other Woman's Cunt". This one is angry, raunchy, vicious and -- by the way! -- hilarious.

There is a fair amount of typographical experimentation and deep connections to literature and mythology, but at its heart, as a whole, the book has the remarkable quality of being extremely moving even when you aren't sure what's going on.

That's a serious statement, too, because you have the feeling that things that look like games on the surface – for example, a short poem called " t(his), (he)re" – are in fact the only way Shmailo could have written what she wanted to write. This is highly recommended as both interesting experimental work and for its powerful emotional connections. .

Monday, April 14, 2014

Between Eclipses

A razor cuts your wrists, but
what cut you off from me?
Is true love quart'red below?

When (blew) an azure sky
separates the chambered clouds,
which Earth will you then save,
which elements recycle?

These eclipses should portend,
but I would always be
the bastard that I am,
had the maidlienest, brightest star
eclipsed upon this gesture.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Girl @theParisReview Says Uncool

The idiot girl @theParisReview says uncool:
that, to critique, the phrase, the trappings of,
is used by “100% pretentious hacks.” And
the editor @PoetryFound retweets her crap,
and an article on pooping, besides. I was
going to tweet a Baudelaire, from “Beauty,” line,
line by displaced line:
I am beautiful, o mortals, like a dream of stone
But thought better of it (a proscribed phrase?)
—an unpretentious #Stalinist might
tell me not to translate, or Baudelaire not to write.
(But what does this mean:
Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes?
Is the idiot girl @ParisCool right?) No, she is
an idiot, disliking a history without her part,
as I dislike the way the young are heartless, mean,
calling it honest (and I was different @18?)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy World Poetry Day!

Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything.
Steven Wright

My favourite poem is the one that starts 'Thirty days hath September' because it actually tells you something.
Groucho Marx

A poem is a naked person... Some people say that I am a poet.
Bob Dylan

And your very flesh shall be a great poem.
Walt Whitman

Ordering a man to write a poem is like commanding a pregnant woman to give birth to a red-headed child.
Carl Sandburg

A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself.
E. M. Forster

Every old poem is sacred.

Like a French poem is life; being only perfect in structure when with the masculine rhymes mingled the feminine are.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I thought I'd begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare, but then I thought, why should I? He never reads any of mine.
Spike Milligan

A poem is never finished, only abandoned.
Paul Valery

Thursday, March 20, 2014

désolé de ne pas être avec vous (for Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada)*

mood: like a monarch’s genitalia
labeled under glass, I miss you (u).
when did you stop being my brot-
her (her), my lover, my tramp, my
scamp? Best incest, this fraternal/
maternal. Royalty did this, scions.
Now we are husband, huffed up,
and Hera-wife-strife. désolé de
ne pas être avec vous
today and
as we once were, her/him, heard.

From #specialcharacters available now from Amazon and Unlikely Books.
*This poem appeared in MadHat 15: Eye on the World.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Phase Change

She rose from the floor like a stalagmite, an icicle staring crystals at me. I remembered every snowflake was unique, and that this coldness was only similar to the others that separated us, monoid fractals of intricate perimeter.

every happy family is warm.
every unhappy family is
cold in its own way.

Cold. That this frigidity was natural, not freon, made it hurt still more. I numbed and sank within myself. Alone, I fancied myself whole and warm. Heat rose from me like a Hawaiian island. I had become a geothermal vent, heating an artist’s garret, sparrows, and a topography of ferns. I soon became hydrogen, fusing to helium in the sun; I evaporated the infinite snow and the ice of her gaze. I was the water cycle, rising, condensing, immense as a hurricane, gentle as dew. I was salt, the origin of tears, the panacea of fear, and she was still cold.

From #specialcharacters, now available from Amazon and Unlikely Books.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kimberly Rae Lorenz-Copeland interviews me about #specialcharacters

Unlikely micro-interview #2.

KR: In my world, Language Arts and Mathematics are on opposite ends of the cognitive spectrum. In fact, numbers have never really registered on my poetry radar at all. Yet, in your book, #specialcharacters, you gel the two together so well, it’s like milk and Pepsi all over again. What gives?

LS: Language is an indispensable part of mathematics, be it the word problem (which is what I call some of my poems) or the narrative behind the Big Bang. Also, math and language centers are quite close in the brain, and math, according to neurologists, requires cross-talk.

Jung loved numbers, and so do I. Like him, I romanticize them and give them mythic numerological symbolism. The opening poem of #specialcharacters, "Aging," is based on the Fibonacci sequence, which creates the whorls of sunflowers, spiral galaxies, and many other beloved objects. The final piece, "Mirror, or a Flash in the Pan," is about that dominant number in many lives, symbolized by the $. Everyone gets that number.

KR: Aside from Jung, what other non-poet(s) most greatly influenced this particularly compelling poetry compilation?

LS: The late, great, and underrated David Markson, for his poetical prose in single sentences, which I tried to emulate in "Mirror" (I could not approach his encyclopedic and wickedly detailed knowledge of literature and the arts). Joyce and Joyce and Joyce and Joyce; although he is also a poet, it was Ulysses to which I responded multiply-orgasmically when I first read it two years ago.

Others: The Canonical Gospels, Tolstoy, Old Church Slavonic, The Paris Review, the PBS program Nature, and Blade Runner. But the people who most informed this collection are all poets, in one way or another. As was Jung, for that matter. I especially thank the Otherstream Poetry group (see the great new Madhat anthology, Shadows of the Future) for inspiring some of the experimental poems in this book.

KR: Ah, the experimental poems; those for which #specialcharacters is named, those challenges of the form, those teeming with special characters, and those, I feel, to be the most captivating. Tell me, if you had to define yourself, as a person, a poet, a lover, a friend, using only one such symbol, which would it be and why?

LS: &: The ampersand, meaning "and"- I am an and person, inclusive. I invite Peter and Paul to the party, I like vanilla and chocolate, I work on six projects at a time. And the character looks female, hippy, a plus size like me. The symbol is a ligature of the Latin et, and I am an etcetera person; I sometimes have the quality of too-muchness, but l contain multitudes (Whitman and I share the same birthday).

About Me

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Larissa Shmailo's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Penguin anthology Words for the Wedding, the Brooklyn Rail, The Unbearables Big Book of Sex, Barrow Street, Fulcrum, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Cardinal Points, Lungfull, Big Bridge, Rattapallax, and About: Poetry. She was the winner of the 2009 New Century Music Awards for spoken word with music for her CD Exorcism; her first CD, The No-Net World, is heard frequently on radio and the Internet. Larissa's books of poetry are In Paran (BlazeVox) and A Cure for Suicide (Cervena Barva Press). Read her new e-book, Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks) at (free download).

Larissa translated the original English-language libretto of the Russian zaum opera Victory over the Sun performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; it is archived at the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Most recently, she received honorable mention in the international translators' competition for the 2011 Compass Award sponsored by Princeton University. Larissa translated a bibliography of Bible translations in the languages of the Russian Empire for the American Bible Society and contributed to the anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry published by Dalkey Archive Press.

Read Larissa Shmailo's new e-book, Fib Sequence, from Argotist Ebooks, FREE, at this link:

Larissa blogs at

And buy books and CDs and digital recordings here (so gratefully appreciated):