Tuesday, March 11, 2014
At one point in #specialcharacters, Larissa Shmailo declares: “Mother Kali, you have made me what I am: feminine, brilliant, entirely without fear” -- and the rest of the poems in this collection prove this true. They run the gamut from being outspoken to outrageous, irreverent to downright heretical, taking gleeful pride in knowing exactly how far is too far – and then going even further. I see this work as a continuum in a long tradition of radical writing practices from Futurism, to Dada, to Oulipo, to Pussy Riot. Read it when you wish to be empowered. Read it when you wish to be entertained. Read it to rid yourself of the precious and polite.
With #specialcharacters where even the title is special Shmailo has managed to split language into its common & least common denominators/principles: sound, meaning, symbol, feeling (text/ure) as well as providing us with a range of voices from child to adult & male to female within a range of styles & mannerisms from the ultra-experimental to quirky “innocent” rhymes like her sexy riff on “the 12 days of Christmas” in her classic “The Other Woman’s Cunt.” Her knowledge of the “WORD” & how to use it extends from darkly humorous to warm, lyrical, tender & painful. She explores every facet of lives lived, be it endangered turtles, abused women or battered men. Her passion & compassion know no bounds. “Between cause & effect…choose this” BOOK, at times a “woeful bedtime tale” & “a light in the bedroom” or any room, any space anywhere in the world. It is a book of verse one should return to “again & again.” A book about “creation,” “alive as snow,” these poems “glisten like apples in the dying sun.” When Shmailo refers to “Steven’s old bones” this “unorthodox jew” can only think of the pleasure his old bones derive from reading these rejuvenating pages. This is a major work by a major poet.
Now available from Amazon and Unlikely Books.
Friday, March 07, 2014
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Philip Nikolayev and Katia Kapovich, editors-in-chief, FULCRUM: an annual of poetry and aesthetics;
Gloria Mindock, publisher and editor, Červená Barva Press;
Ben Mazer, editor, The Battersea Review;
Zachary Bos, editor, Pen & Anvil Press;
Audrey Roth, esq., ConvergentGC,
and Annie Pluto, professor of literature and drama, Lesley Unversity.
And, of course, yours truly!
Wednesday, April 9, 7:00 pm
89 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138
See you there!
Monday, March 03, 2014
There is, as Bob Grumman termed it, the knownstream; then there is the otherstream, a raging subterranean river of literary lava. It bursts through to an unsuspecting public in Warholian, beat, and Dadaesque and Sadean eruptions— a few readers live to tell the tale and the rest never know what hit them.
Welcome to Shadows of the Future. Here you have Chris Mansel and his he/she serial killers, Marc Vincenz's Swiss-Chinese eyes, Sheila Murphy ripping zen a new one, C. Brannon Watts with blood in his mouth, mIEKAL aND's Unglish, Annie Pluto's words entwined like lovers, Camille Baco's spare music, Marie-Marcia Casoly's fleshy skeletons, John M. Bennett's muy orthography, Sarah Sarai's mellifluous light, and Joani Reese's evanescence. Carol Novack calls from from the other side and Jack Foley calls from any coast he wants. Jeffrey Side's words looks knowlingly upon the festivities, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen's poems pulse like his recordings, and Susan Lewis's pivots the prose poetics at impossible new angles.
And there are more of us, of course, because Otherstream is more, even de trop, or monk minimalist, as it wants. Ask Jake Berry, who rules our online haunts like a happy Pluto handing out inheritances.
Yes, we are legion. Like it.
Otherstream is where every significant literature was born, midwifed by a writer who asked, looking at a new syntax and/or semantics, how can I write like that, never worrying about the may. Like all poets, but perhaps more extreme, we seek the new perspective, though our sense, sounds, and sentences, broken or not.
Ask me: May we write this way? Try to stop us
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
what matters is not at what place but what moment
the uncoupling decoupling
of movement outward begins:
in December precisely in Okhta probably
identical buildings of crap leatherette
on which scars of SovHousewares glow in the night
meat vegetables footwear - abstract metamatter.
filth flies as galoshes gallop across
the wasteland: so earnest, you know,
such candor and cha-harm in those nightly sessions!
where the elevator drops you Dante-like circle by circle
to the basement where a blind cat gnaws on a piece of glass
or the anemic grove at the edge of the well-fed park
where a musing imbecile pisses on a rotting mat of leaves
with casual dignity like a faun perched on
one of Peterhof's fountains.
the boudoir protocol of familiar and formal address
eight poets one more monstrous than the next in his
despairing artistic malice,
the burning bush of crude come-ons
flares predictably with goodbyes -
again the deus ex machina misses his cue.
Morning, December, river.
approved for the shining hell of resurrection.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Threaded through itself,
needle and thread,
dry hermit thought,
gently interleaving the air,
a bookmark for its pages,
beak askew, -
it, like a steeple of order,
or an axis,
or a blade drawn from its sheath
and driven into a pond, where fish,
halos circumscribe the scales,
is more circular and silent than a target,
and where one female with a singular
stiller than all
stands, barely swaying, stiller than a shadow.
Then, lingering at the start,
biting into the air, into the light,
and letting drops fall from its claws-
above the pond,-and in the egret's beak,
as a fish's mouth,
world opens wide and gapes dumbfounded.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
National Translation Month - NTM: Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) Translated from Russian by Alexander Cigale
The street collapsed like the nose of a syphilitic.
The river – sweet longing that spilled into spit.
Having shed their underwear down to the last leaf
the vulgar gardens have gone to seed in June.
I walked out onto the square
and put the desiccated neighborhood
on my head like an orange wig.
People terrified of me – out of my mouth
squirming with its feet an undigested scream.
But they won’t judge me, won’t bark at me.
As at a prophet, they will strew flowers in my wake.
All of them with collapsed noses know
I – am your poet.
As by tavern rot, I’m terrified of your terrible judgment.
The prostitutes will carry me alone in their hands
like a sacred relic through the burning buildings
and display me before God as their redemption.
And God will break down and whimper over my book!
Not words – shuddering, congealed into clumps;
he will race across the sky with my verses under his arm
and, all out of breath, recite them to his acquaintances.
From Back to Futurism, Alex Cigale 2012
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
"It's a lie!" we answered in unison, without arranging it.
"It's no secret that the image of an island counts among those I most despise. It seems to me that this image has accumulated exactly as much filth and falsity as is needed to form an island, blast it! What could be more natural than when, from all the trash (spiritual, cultural, and biological) poured in a heap, suddenly, as if by the wave of a conductor's wand, an isle appears? Here we cannot help but associate-by rhyme-our hot uninhabited isle with the awl, a sharp implement, and through it all sharp-tongued witticisms and pointed puns, the tools of rhetoric, even the sharp heat of island spices, and as a result we are lead to all the potential harm caused by the isle-awl: it all goes to the same place, into one heap, one atoll. The pun, as you can see, nauseates: I will be sick with all these endless islands, all seclusion, solitude and cosmic loneliness, I'll vomit them into the auditorium, were there an auditorium before me, or wherever, if it so happens by some inexplicable reason that the auditorium is absent. The inexplicable reason, by the way, can only be the following: that the auditorium is also an island, a diminutive isle of peace and calm in the stormy sea of modernity. And it's not possible that I would be sick into the very thing thing that makes me sick, isn't that true? I'm asking you: is it true?
Once more we replied: "It's a lie!
Monday, February 17, 2014
The old ladies sighed—-what is going to happen?
The old ladies sighed—how’s it all going to end?
And I understood: They’re grooming me for slaughter
By some feeling of monstrous proportions.
But now, I am astonishingly old,
And that feeling never, never comes.
And I know—there are women who, to the last,
Will all rise up, every one of them,
And say, “We—we like our husbands
Better than Jeremy Irons!”
But I never saw their husbands,
Never took off their ties, never kissed their necks.
And that’s why it’s possible that
I don’t like anyone.
Except, of course, Jeremy,
Бабушки охали — что же такое будет.
Бабушки охали — как же все это станется.
И я понимала — меня растят на убой
Какому-то чувству чудовищного размаха.
И вот — мне уже возмутительно много лет,
А чувства такого все нет и нет.
И я знаю — есть женщины, из которых все до одной
Могут встать стеной.
И сказать — что мол «наши мужья нам нравятся
Больше Джереми Айронса!!!
Но я никогда не видела их мужей,
Не снимала с них галстуков, не целовала их шей.
И возможно поэтому
Мне так никто и не нравится.
Кроме, конечно же, Джереми,
Джереми Айронса . . .
An earlier version of this translation appeared in the anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry edited by James Tate.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
[Away, away; German]
I'll go where the snow,
Blue like the eyes of the Virgin,
Touched by an icy crust,
Palpable in relief,
Reigns in the fields of the night.
Where under the heavy conifer wings
Stands my abandoned house,
In which I no longer have faith,
It lives and ages with me,
Just like me, pleading for mercy.
Black boulders, cold foreheads exposed,
Are waiting for us to address them aloud,
As if they have found a solution
To the riddle of time immemorial.
It's terrifying when you realize,
That the trees, the lake, the snow, and the sky,
Holding the world in the grip of their workmen's gloves,
See through you, and are willing
To sell your soul for a song...
Yes, this - the only direction worth going in,
If one is to approach all that's mightier.
Encircling in love seems just as legitimate
As thirst for revenge, while to know
The name of another's God - is to win.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
National Translation Month - NTM: In Memoriam: Boris Ryzhy (1974-2001) Translated by Philip Nikolayev
Let's walk, my friend, along an empty street
where frozen clementines of streetlamps hover
and snow covers the distance like a sheet
and all the stores have shut their doors forever.
Show windows, neon glow, ditches and pipes.
"It's all so gruesome, hopeless, literal.
And what do you, my friend, expect from life?" -
"Sadness: it's in the nature of the beautiful!"
All that being quite so, we pass black walls.
"What do you figure will happen to us tomorrow?"
A monstrous and eternal mannequin follows
us with two perfect eyeballs free of sorrow.
"Suppose he knows that storefront rose is dead,
or his own ugliness, or the world's fears?" -
"He knows that there is happiness, my friend,
yet you and I can't see it for our tears.
Friday, February 14, 2014
Quit my lover
Leave the city
Sell my books.
For six months with you, I would
Live in Kansas
Join a carpool
Shave my legs.
For six months with you, I would
Be an actress
Wait on tables
Burn this poem.
But what if it doesn’t work out?
If it doesn’t work out I’ll join a convent
If it doesn’t work out I’ll cut my hair
If it doesn’t work out I’ll leave the country
If it doesn’t work out I still don’t care. . . .
For six months with you, I would
Break the true law
Break my poor heart
Break my vow.
Now ask me what I’d do
For a year or two.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Thursday, February 13, 2014
adamantly by and light
rain falls, falls.
One woman pours
milk, the other
combs her hair—for
three hundred years:
Not life, said
Malraux, but the statues,
will be our witnesses.
*From Out of the Dust.
This translation originally appeared in Asymptote.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Dead roses, plastic tulips, dry immortelles-
he hated them in the German hotels,
drinking coffee from cups whose shiny backs
had been designed with swastikas of cracks.
He never settled down to sink his roots
in any fathermotherland. Old bear,
he wore the same old-fashioned English suits
that had traveled so far during the war.
His wife, his alter echo, read him books
as he lay ill in bed, prepared to die.
He knew by name all foreign lakes and brooks
as they passed by.
A man forgets men rather than forgives.
Laugh, Mnemosyne, healing muse of those
whose heads are crowned, but not with laurel leaves-
with the whispering reeds of other shores.
From an interview between Adam Weiner, chair of Slavic at Wellesley, and myself about contemporary Russian poetry:
AW: In your anthology I immediately noticed a very fine poem by Katia Kapovich, "In Nabokov's Memory." This poem flows so easily that you miss the first time through how rich it is with meaning and humor. The way the poet remembers Nabokov's famous penchant for "hating" things and applies it—in the second line!—to the flowers of the first, the discovered secondary sense of hating "dry immortelles," the way she turns his autobiography, Speak, Memory, into Laugh, Mnemosyne, and many more happy turnings.
LS: I love Katia's poem, which gives understated voice to the life of a literary expatriate, who learns the names of foreign brooks and lakes, perhaps for her new American readership, and perhaps simply for the words. Brodsky was such a "crowned head," our poet laureate. Our émigré bilinguals in Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry write of these "other shores" in bittersweet memory of home.
- ▼ March (4)
- ► 2013 (27)
- ► 2012 (32)
- ► 2008 (15)
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 http://www.lulu.com/product/
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: http://www.lulu.com/product/
Larissa blogs at http://larissashmailo.
And buy books and CDs and digital recordings here (so gratefully appreciated):
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