Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Star

Christmas Star
by Joseph Brodsky

In a cold time, in a place more accustomed
To scorching heat, to flat plains than to hills,
A child was born in a cave to save the world.
And it stormed, as only winter’s desert can.

Everything seemed huge to him: his mother’s breast
The yellow steam of the camels’ breath, the Magi,
Balthazar, Caspar, Melchior, their gifts, carried here.
He was all of him just a dot. And the dot was a star.

Attentively and fixedly, through the sparse white clouds
Upon the recumbent child, on the manger, from afar,
From the depths of the universe, from its very end,
A star watched over the cave. And that was the father’s gaze.

From Paysage s navodneniem (Landscape with Flood)
Tr. L. Shmailo

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Phase Change (Poem for Barack Obama)

The frightened ships will cling to the shore,
Unwilling to leave what they know.
I will give them passage, learn to row,
Teach them: There is another shore -
The second appears when the first is gone.

I carry this water for luck, to walk on,
To follow you home over rock.
I give you my compass, this gathered-up fog:
It will soften the air for you, give birth to stars,
As ice floats to light, we sail.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Got Poetry review of CD Exorcism

Larissa Shmailo, a New York based poet, has recently released her second CD, "Exorcism" (SongCrew Records, 2008). On "Exorcism," Shmailo runs the gamut from straightforward political work ("Warsaw Ghetto") to more lyrical and evocative work ("Bhakti" and "Mapping"), with much of the work being backed by well chosen music that always enhances and never overwhelms.

Shmailo has a supple, adpatable voice; her ability to match pace and dynamics to the subject matter of these wildly different poems is a testament to her ability to make each piece come alive in the most effective fashion. From the opener, "Warsaw Ghetto," a series of personal, powerful statements of identity by people involved in the struggle for individual freedom and human dignity from several episodes in history, to the devilishly inventive pair of poems that follow it ("Dancing With The Devil," in which the speaker declares that "I love dancing with someone who can really lead"; and "How To Meet And Dance With Your Death," a matter of fact how-to recipe for finding your destiny through excess), to the more lyrical work of "Mapping" and "He follows her...," there is something for everyone here, and Shmailo reveals herself here as a poet of great scope and skill.

The recording itself only adds to this. In "Skin," a doubled vocal adds an eerie touch to the seductive text. The samples that back up "The Gospel According to Magadelene" include Thin Lizzy, the Supremes, and Led Zeppelin, which lend a modern twist to this retelling of the tale of Mary Magdelene from her point of view.

Standout tracks include a cover of Anna Ahkmatova ("Dante"), the aforementioned "Mapping," and the poems "Bhakti" and "Bloom." "Bloom," in particular, is a revelation -- a surreal and sonically shattering tumble of words and images inspired by Colette, James Joyce, and George Sand.

The album's closing track, "Exorcism (found poem)" is interesting, though a real departure from the rest of the album. A faux-Gregorian chant using the words of author M. Scott Peck on the 1968 My Lai massacre, a notorious incident from the Vietnam war, "Exorcism" uses repetition and asecending pitch to build a picture of horror that reminds one of Hannah Arendt's chilling description of the "banality of evil." The ending of the piece is truly unsettling.

Throughout this album, Larissa Shmailo consistently delivers on the promise of poetry as an oral art form. Although I can imagine that the pieces included herein would work well on page (and would love to see more than a few of these, so I could read them as well), this is a testament to how well a poetry CD can work with careful attention to the details of the production. That the poetry itself is as strong as it is is the most obvious reason that "Exorcism" is as good as it is.

Larissa Shmailo on Myspace:

Also available through ITunes, CD Baby, and Rhapsody

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Smoking Poet review of Exorcism

Friday, October 10, 2008
Exorcism by Larissa Shmailo

Poetry CD Review by Zinta Aistars

Audio CD (June 24, 2008)

Price: $12.99

"Skin is just sausage we call home."

It is lines such as this that make me a brand new Larissa Shmailo fan. And I am not usually a listen-to-poetry rather than read-poetry fan. Recordings of readings seem to be "the poetic thing" these days, and that is a trend that makes sense to me. People have less time and impetus to read a book in their busy lives, but popping a CD into your car stereo during a commute, well, that's another thing. (I still prefer a book in hand, but my daily commute is long ...)

So pop in this. Shmailo's voice immediately fills your space. Not every poet or writer can read their work to others. In fact, I think I am safe in saying ... most cannot. I have been frequenting readings all my life, and I can't say how often I have been disappointed to find that what I love on the written page bores me to tears spoken aloud. Not so with Shmailo. After listening to Exorcism several times, I can still say I am wishing for the written page, but unwilling to give up the sound. Shmailo reads with so much intensity, intonation, energy, in velvety and sensual voice, that to not hear this would be a missed experience.

Another point in Exorcism's favor: this is the first such spoken poetry CD in which I can say that music, where it is present, is seamlessly joined to spoken word. It does not distract. It does not overwhelm. It does not jar. It blends, accompanies, enriches. The mood is like that of entering a dark, smoky room, falling into pillows, and riding the silky, heady wave. Shmailo is intense. She can shock, she can tickle, she can entrance.

My favorite is "Dancing with the Devil." Because it is. A mini poem leading into "How to Meet and Dance with Your Death." You can only do it once, the poet warns you. Any more than once, and you become a cheap woman sleeping with common men. The recipe is bizarre and wonderful. You very nearly want to write it down and give it a blend. Die if you must.

Shmailo poetizes devils with the same skill as she weaves words around God and Magdalene. Her poetry is as lushly sensual as it is cutting to the bone. This is about love and pain, birth and rebirth, fields of magnolias, and surviving the Warsaw ghetto. She uses words I save for special occasion without wincing, and I forgive it, because it works. The slap of shock is appropriate. This is not merely strong performance, it is also strong in substance ... which is why I long to see the written word as well. I would suggest a written copy inserted into the CD cover as a booklet to complete the treasure.

If I list a favorite, then I will also list my least favorite: the title poem, "Exorcism." Found poem, apparently, although I don't think that is what holds this one back for me. It is a rather droning, chanting monotone (about the lie and crime of war) that can't be listened to for long without grating on a nerve or two, edging on annoying. But this is not reason enough, this one, for me not to recommend Exorcism in its totality to anyone who enjoys poetry, or just an enthralling listening experience.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Erika, who are you? The fake anthology and our 15 minutes

The blog For Godot published a hilarious experiment in computer-generated poetry. Arsonism issue one, written by the Erika program and edited by Stephen McLaughlin, went viral this week through brilliant search engine optimization and a canny insight into poet group dynamics. It is a funny, throught-provoking send up of ideas surrounding authorship and Internet publication.

From the announcement.
This issue features new poems by Nada Gordon, Evelyn Reilly, Julianna Mundim, Emmy Catedral, Enid Bagnold, Richard Siken, Stephen Ratcliffe, Michael Gottlieb, Jodie Childers, Norman J. Olson, Brent Hendricks, Sean Kilpatrick, Tom McCarthy, Stacy Doris, Michael Rerick, Corrinne Clegg Hales, Mark Decarteret, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Darren Wershler-Henry, Letitia Trent, Debra Di Blasi, Laura Elrick, Bruna Mori, Popahna Brandes, Robert Sheppard, Diana Magallan, Kristine Danielson, Ed Higgins, Drew Gardner, Kyle Kaufman, Matthew Thorburn, Tiel Aisha Ansari, Christopher Wells, Vanessa Place, Simon Pettet, Grace Vajda, John Bennett, Ian Patterson, Joseph Hutchison, John Cotter, Cheryl Lawson Walker, Scott Esposito, Jason Nelson, Daniel Kane, Kimo Armitage, Alan May, J.D. Nelson, Bob Hershon, Jennifer Karmin, Kim Rosenfield, Nathan Austin, Pearl Pirie, Rosmarie Waldrop, Tara Betts, Donald Revell, Jim Ryals, Danuta Kean, Jeff VanderMeer, Alfredo Bonanno, Irene Latham, Michael Hennesy, Dick Higgins, John Hanson, Billy Merrell, Sam Ladkin, Jeff Ward, Debra Jenks, K. Lorraine Graham, Kenji Okuhira, Sean MacInnes, Adam Seelig, Steve Halle, David Mus, Monique Wittig, Joyelle McSweeney, Daniel E. Levenson, Luke Daly, Henry Thoreau, John Palattella, Abby Trenaman, Kristen Taylor, Vassily Kamensky, David Jhave Johnston, Gene Tanta, Cate Marvin, Alison Roth, Shad Marsh, Asher Ghaffar, Henry Gould, Justin Theroux, Susan Grimm, Bernard Wilson, Ateet Tuli, Laura Moriarty, Mark McMorris, Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle, Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, William Shakespeare, Nick Trinen, Daphne Gottlieb, Magdalena Zurawski, A.K. Arkadin, Matthue Roth, Douglas J. Belcher, After Bitahatini, Neil Schmitz, Liz Henry, Tom Hansen, Craig Saper, Pris Campbell, Afua-Kafi Akua, Amish Trivedi, Chris Hutchinson, Cath Vidler, Sarah Weinman, A.E. Stallings, Robin Blaser, Roland Prevost, Mac Wellman, Steven Schroeder, Joy Garnett, Mark Lamoureux, Julie Clark, Bob Garlitz, Jeff Hamilton, Kara Dorris, Maureen Thorson, Irv Muchnick, Frank O'Hara, Robin Magowan, C. Allen Rearick, A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz, Tony Leuzzi, Bhanu Kapil, Sage U..ilani Takehiro, Shellie Zacharia, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Camille Martin, Eliot Weinberger, David Nemeth, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Iris Smyles, Bertolt Brecht, David Forbes, Colin Herd, Sergio Bessa, Zach Wollard, Adam Ford, Claudia Keelan, Hank Sotto, Jamba Dunn, Ken Mikolowski, Jean-Jacques Poucel, Santiago B. Villafania, David Valentinovia, Robert Kaufman, Dominique Meens, Joe Elliot, August Stramm, Justin Katko! Sandra Korchenko, Carol Peters, Lilah Hegnauer, Brian Evenson, Wallace Stevens, Timothy Murphy, Joseph Bradshaw, Nick Courtright, Adam Chiles, James, Kane X. Faucher, David Abel, Ray Succre, Gabriel Gudding, Antonin Artaud, Mark Cunningham, Paul Fattaruso, William Saroyan, Aaron McCollough, Confucius/Ezra Pound, David Antin, Rob Mackenzie, Ryan Eckes, Christian Peet, Peter Riley, Litsa Spathi, Anna Ahkmatova, Mark Tursi, J.D. Schraffenberger, Greg Fuchs, Sean Casey, Orpingalik, Hassan Melehy, Rosemarie Waldrop, Phillip Lund, Adam Aitken, Michael Davidson, Andrea Rexilius, William Allegrezza, Raymond Queneau, Fred Wah, Marcia Arrieta, Elizabeth Cross, Jonathan Greene, Gregory Laynor, Preston Spurlock, Jane Sprague, Kevin Thurston, Stephen Berry, William Bronk, Claudia Rankine, Steve Dalachinsky, Ed Sanders, Sam Rasnake, Wes Smiderle, James Belflower, Simmons B. Buntin, Dolores Dorantes, Emilie Clark, Leslie Marmon Silko, Sarah O'Brien, Jack Tricarico, Gerard Van der Luen, Frances Richard, Charlie Bertsch, Bob Cobbing, Sabrina Calle, Steven Burt, Stephane Mallarme, Bob Marcacci, Edwin Torres, Lois Marie Harrod, Evgeny Maizel, Luc Simonic, Lawrence Durrell, Amanda Davidson, Pendergast, Gregory Orr, Lepson, Joseph Duemer, Eric Alterman, Erin M. Bertram, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Suzanne Buffam, Andy Nicholson, Edward Champion, Katy Acheson, Okey Ndibe, Jennifer Mulligan, Renee Zepeda, Alfred Kubin, Sawako Nakayasu, David Prater, Forrest Gander, Mike Gubser, Virginia Heatter, Leslie Winer, Ed Schenk, Doug Holder, Russell Ragsdale, Jose Manuel Velazquez, Dick Jones, Gerry Loose, Daniel J. Vaccaro, Rafael Alberti, Jeff Newberry, Igor Terentiev, Micah Robbins, Friedrich Holderlin, Arif Khan, Laurel Dodge, Ann White, Nicolas Guillen, John Lowther, Cathleen Miller, Josef Vachal, Chris Moran, Miyazawa Kenji, Robert Fitterman, Norman Mailer, Doris Shapiro, Talan Menmott, Alan Licht, John Godfrey, James Maughn, Anne Heide, Jasmine Dreame Wagner, Lina ramona Vitkauskas, Judith Goldman, Rich Murphy, Halvard Johnson, Ariel Dorfman, Ed Baker, Maryrose Larkin, Sheila E. Murphy, Rosanna Warren, Jean Cocteau, Clarence Major, Eleanor Stanford, Teresa Carmody, Kenward Elmslie, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ryan Walker, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Nava Fader, Rob Budde, Allison Cobb, Robert Roley, Alison Collins, Melissa Fondakowski, Nathan Whiting, Jess Rowan, Cid Corman, Bob Heman, Libby Rosof, Cassie Lewis, Scott Saner, Roberta Allen, Raymond Farr, Anne Pierson Wiese, kevin mcpherson eckhoff, Troy Lloyd, Lindsay Boldt, Andrea Baker, Meredith Quartermain, Richard Meier, Louise Mathias, Joseph Cooper, Lynn Strongin, Outlines, Suzanne Stein, Richard de Nooy, Sherry, Robert Chrysler, Ton van't Hof, Peter Cole, Michael Slosek, June Jordan, Andrew Zitka, Eve Babitz, G.C. Waldrep, Craig Santos Perez, James Sherry, Hugh, David R. Slavitt, Dino Campana, Stephen Berer, Alastair Johnston, Angela Jaeger, Javier Huerta, Jed Birmingham, David Harrison Horton, Alan Baker, Steve Clay, Kevin Coval, Tony Brown, Debesh Goswami, Michael Farrell, Abigail Child, Tanya Larkin, Ron Slate, Emmanuel Hocquard, Lauren Dixon, Jan Zwicky, Andrew Joron, Jessica Wickens, Arthur Sze, David Baptiste Chirot, Steven May, Rob Cook, Ankur Saha, Eric Unger, Chris Heilman, James Purdy, Derek Henderson, James Collins, L.J. Moore, Michael McClure, D.S. Marriott, Michael Heller, Robert Mittenthal, Eileen Tabios, Aki Salmela, Lou Rowan, Jerome Seaton, Lori Lubeski, Paul Hardacre, Rus Bowden, John Wieners, Lauren Levin, Johanna Drucker, Velimir Khlebnikov, Terry Bisson, Martha Plimpton, Miklos Radnoti, Ken Kesey, Matvei Yankelevich, Seth Forrest, Maria Damon, David MacDuff, Kevin Doran, Rob Read, Kristen Gallagher, Rick Visser, Andrei Bely, Sara Crangle, Karl Klingbiel, Jackson Mac Low, Fox, Derik Badman, Paul Griffiths, Oliver Rohe, Mark L. Lilleleht, Michelle Bautista, Monica Schley, Aaron Levy, andrew nightingale, Douglas Messerli, Pattie McCarthy, David West, Jon McKenzie, James Weber, Carlos Rojas, Donatella Izzo, Francois Luong, Daniel Borzutzky, Umm Zaid, Tony D'Arpino, James Tierney, Tao Lin, Rochelle Owens, Amy Friedman, Natalie Zina Walschots, Kayin Wong, Emily Sher, Deborah R. Geis, Kristen Iskandrian, Brother Tom Murphy, Jeremy Gardner, Alcoholic Poet, Chris Mansel, Keith Tuma, Chris Mansell, Rob MacDonald, Yuan Mei, Stanislaw Witkiewicz, Joshua Schuster, Glenn Bach, Maureen Owen, Richard Wink, Guy Bennett, Eric Elshtain, Reza Shirazi, Tonya Foster, Karl Kempton, Allan Gurganus, Alizon Brunning, Christopher Davis, Richard Foreman, Francois Luong, Yvonne Werkman, rob mclennan, Mark McCarthy, Bill Marsh, Tom Devaney, John Most, Nick Moudry, Jennifer Reimer, Charles Baudelaire, Gabriel Pomerand, Crane Giamo, Vernon Frazer, Mike Basinski, Oliver de la Paz, Leon Damas, Mark Ducharme, Jim Leftwich, Eliot Katz, Pat Lawrence, Jeff Daily, Jefferson Navicky, Tom Savage, Legs McNeil, mIEKAL aND, Leevi Lehto, Allyson Clay, Cy Mathews, Dereck Clemons, Clayton Eshleman, Benjamin Parzybok, Kevin Isu, Laura Mullen, Angelo Suarez, Kate Greenstreet, Andrew Burke, Natalie Simpson, Susan Smith Nash, Peter Gizzi, Dana Goodyear, Terence Winch, Sandy McIntosh, Cris Mazza, James Thurber, Sarah O’Brien, Firoze Shakir, Elizabeth Castagna, D.J. Huppatz, David Koehn, Kyra Saari, Philip Jenks, Martin Corless-Smith, Jacques Leslie, Will Gallien, Mathew Timmons, Eric Lochridge, Buck Downs, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Leonard Michaels, Francis Raven, seflo, Nina Shope, Carson Cistulli, Jennifer Banks, Deborah Burnham, Steve Langan, Rosalva Garcia Coral, Betty Stork, Erica Van Horn, Anna Evans, Lizzie Skurnick, Skip Fox, Olde Quietude, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jonathan Williams, Sarah Maclay, Pablo Neruda, Richard Tuttle, Fran Herndon, Cheryl Clark, Allen Itz, Derek White, Barry MacSweeney, Eben Eldridge, Sandra Ridley, Normie Salvador, Priscilla Long, Alan Gilbert, Dennis Tedlock, Steve Benson, Brian Whitener, Rene Char, Lawrence Ytzhak Braithwaite, Teresa Ballard, Barbara Henning, Mario Melendez, Jacques Demarcq, Harvey Bialy, Gary Norris, Kerry Shawn Keys, Dawn Pendergast, Aimee Parkison, Michael Cooper, Chris Killen, Les Webb, Roberta Fallon, John Fillwalk, Stephen McLaughlin, Elizabeth Robinson, Bob Heffernan, Zak Smith, Nicholas Lea, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Dan Beachy-Quick, Ross White, Stan Mir, Tim Atkins, Poppy Z. Brite, Dylan Hock, Kurt Vonnegut, Mez Breeze, Stephanie Heit, J. Mason, Colleen Lookingbill, John Hall, Michelle Morgan, Alexi Parshchikov, Clemente Padin, Lisa Jarnot, Lance & Andrea Olsen, Mark Wallace, Nancy Kuhl, Xu Smith, Jorge de Lima, Hillary Lyon, Clayton Couch, Gunnar Ekelof, Alex Caldiero, Clifford Burke, Karri Kokko, Brent Goodman, Daniel Clowes, Todd Suomela, Arlene Ang, David McDuff, Bill Sherman, Ezra Mark, Kathryn Pringle, Jem Cohen, Adam Tobin, Thomas Meyer, Clifford Duffy, Anne Waldman, Nancy Shaw, Pilar Olabarria, Chris Maher, Ezra Pound, David Hilmer Rex, Levari, Jerome Sala, Ryan Collins, Alexander Jorgensen, Shouva Chattopadhyay, Linda Susan Jackson, Jonathan Mayhew, Pejk Malinovski, Michael Parker, Claude Simon, Ian Keenan, Peter O'Brien, Jeannie Hoag, Marcel Janko, Beverly Jackson, Loren Webster, Daniel Knudsen, Michael P. 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R. Ammons, Jenny Davidson, Tom Hopkins, Laurie Price, Woody Haut, Jim Toweill, Anne Tardos, Ronald Johnson, Will Skinker, Linda Marie Walker, Dave Schiralli, Rachel Talentino, Christopher McVey, Jordan Davis, Chris Tonelli, Patrick Culliton, Michael Basinski, Christina Brown, Kathleen Rooney & Elisa Gabbert, Maria Benet, Regis Bonvicino, Richard Huelsenbeck, Julia Cohen, Jim Behrle, Stephanie Bolster, Timothy Liu, Donna Brook, Kristin Abraham, Marcus Bales, Patricia Wellingham Jones, Susie Timmons, Clayton A. Couch, Myung Mi Kim, John Litzenberg, Zoe Strauss, Jonathan Meakin, Janine Pommy Vega, John Matthew, Robert Sund, Janne Nummela, Robert Archambeau, Dodie Bellamy, Meghan Scott, Stephen Johnson, Brenda Schmidt, Lisa Flaherty, Martine Bellen, Ron Loewinsohn, Darryl Keola Cabacungan, Chris Ransick, Sean T. Hanratty, Tim Gaze, Kathleen Rooney, Tom Mandel, AnnMarie Eldon, Tom Peters, Billy Jones, Gilbert Adair, Jim  Behrle, Peter Jay Shippy, Amanda Laughtland, Juliet Cook, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Brian Smith, Aldo Palazzeschi, Richard Denner, Anthony Robinson, Chris Tysh, Christopher Stackhouse, Paul Muldoon, Stefania Iryne Marthakis, Ellen Orleans, Robin Reagler, Susan Maxwell, Delia Mellis, John Baker, Jack Boettcher, Lex Camena, Jeffery Bahr, Veronica Montes, Miriam Nichols, Phil Hall, Tyler Carter, Jessica Treat, Mairead Byrne, C.S. Carrier, C.L. Bledsoe, Barbara Maloutas, Peter Schjeldahl, Marc Andre Robinson, Morgan Lucas Schultdt, Sean Thomas Dougherty, Rebecca Hazelton, Ryan Bird, Ernst Meister, Edith Sodergran, Bronwen Tate, Joritz-Nakagawa, Sharon Mollerus, Talan Memmott, Robert Burns, Jim Dunn, Matthew Cheney, Edward Nudelman, Subhro Bandopadhyay, Tiff Dressen, Sandy Florian, Jesse Glass, Jennie Skerl, Phil Fried, Eric Gurney, Christof Scheele, Nicholas Rombes, Billy Collins, Eugenio Montale, Gautam Verma, Tyler Cobb, Kendra Malone, Tom Beckett, Vivian Vavassis, Jude MacDonald, Joanna Sondheim, Paul Naylor, Kazim Ali, Josh Corey, Patrick Donnelly and Stephen Miller, Ari Bania, Geoffrey G. O'Brien, Leonard Kress, Philippe Soupault, Steve Caratzas, Joseph Mains, William Yazbec, Standard Schaefer, Betsy Andrews, Carlo Carra, Marie Hopkins, Anna Maria Hong, Burt Kimmelman, Karen J. Weyant, Max Middle, Joan Retallack, Gil Ott, Dennis Cooper, David Matlin, Tino Gomez, B.J. Love, Helen White, John Crowley, Weldon Kees, Louis Zukofsky, David Trinidad, Andrew Peterson, Bill Seaman and Penny Florence, Heather O'Neill, Reginald Shepherd, Annie Guthrie, Ammiel Alcalay, Carton Tragedy, Alfred Corn, Barbara Smith, Jozef Imrich, Yagi Mikajo, Stephen Thomson, Mark Rudman, Jena Osman, Ernesto Priego, Ken Springtail, Sam Beckbessinger, Cecilia Vicuna, Behm-Steinberg, Kate Schapira, Deidre Elizabeth, Jean Lehrman, Seth Landman, Ana Bozicevic-Bowling, Jess Mynes, Will Yackulic, Caroline Wilkinson, Maria Sabina, eldon, Richard Lighthouse, Michael Smoler, Henry Hills, Mark Marino, Poton, Thomas O'Connell, David Henderson, Michael Cross, Maralyn Lois Polak, Joe Brennan, Alice Cary, Erica Kaufman, Lewis Warsh, Steve Evans, David Byrne, Frank Parker, Kaz Maslanka, Jenna Cardinale, Peter Straub, EK Smith, Megan Martin, Meghan Punschke, Sherry Chandler, E. Tracy Grinnell, Tom Muir, Jeff Davis, F. Daniel Rzicznek, Diana Magallon and Jeff Crouch, Kyle Schlesinger, Stuart Dybek, Marco Giovenale, Zach Savich, Tom Wegrzynowski, Arnie Hoffman, Rikki Ducornet, Dawn, Thomas Fink,, Christian Jensen, Andrew Philip, Dave Pollard, Miriam Burstein, Jessica Bozek, Patrick So, Joe Massey, Carmine Starnino, Evan Kennedy, Chris Vitiello, Nick Bruno, Amy Newman, Sharon Gilbert, Aaron Tieger, William Wordsworth, Eugenio Tisselli, julia doughty, Marko Niemi, Pierre Reverdy, Lytton Smith, Lee Gurga, Jed Shahar, Tim Hunt, Lee Upton, Mark Scroggins, Rachel Smith, Robert Wodzinski, Matthew Blake, Matina Stamatakis, Robert Waxman, Jack McGuane, Bethany Ides, Alfred Arteaga, Kat Meads, Sandra Gilbert, Carlo Parcelli, Jeff Calhoun, John Bryant, Jasper Bernes, Jeffrey Joe Nelson, Joan Houlihan, Lynn Behrendt, Jack Kerouac, Brenda Iijima, James Koller, Sun Yung Shin, Ixta Menchaca, John Barton, Piero Heliczer, Todd Colby, Awotunde Aworinde, Emma Barnes, Allison Whittenberg, Jenni Russell, Rowan Wilken, Daniela Olszewska, Layne Russell, George Oppen, Ben Yarmolinsky, Phil Cordelli, Andrew Kozma, Harry Wilkens, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Gorecki, Jilly Dybka, Kirthi Nath, Jennifer Bredl, Paolo Buzzi, Aime Cesaire & Rene Depestre, Ruben Dario, Rachel Loden, William Bryant, hassen, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Jessamyn West, Salvador Dali, Greg Djanikian, George M Wallace, Sharon Brogan, Roger Farr, Lesley Yalen, Jessica Tillyer, Cathy Eisenhower, Noah Falck, Beka Goedde, Patrick Lovelace, Erik Anderson, Shahar Gold, Olivier Cadiot, Peter O'Leary, Mel Nichols, Juan Felipe Herrera, Mirabai, Rob Mackenzie, Bethany Wright, Joseph Mosconi, MTC Cronin, Terrance Hayes, Bryson Newhart, Yoko Ono, Gherardo Bortolotti, Olli Sinivaara, Jim Crace, Brendan Lorber, Tracie Morris, Jeffrey Side, Brent Cunningham, Henry Miller, Christina McPhee, Mike Nicoloff, Ray Federman, Valerie Coulton, HL Hazuka, Ari Banias, Thomas Hummel, Nicolette Bond, J.F. Quackenbush, Julia Stein, Bill Borneman, Jon Link, Steve Dickison, Scott Helmes, Brion Gysin, Sean Burke, Laynie Brown, Hermit-Sage Tradition, Jane Dark, Scott Withiam, Lance Phillips, Michael Ford, John Olson, John Bailey, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Derek Motion, Ashby Tyler, Sarah Campbell, Andrea Strudensky, Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Mathias Svalina, Ishle Yi Park, Dubravka Djurić, John McHale, Grant-Lee Phillips, Jeremy Czerw, Richard Newman, Diana Slampyak, David McFadden, Jim McGrath, Gregory Crosby, tyler funk, Kristi Maxwell, Vladimir Zykov, Daniel Brenner, Don Mee Choi, Ted Greenwald, Meena Alexander, Sarah Mangold, Steve McCaffery, Jill Magi, Glen Bach, Hank Lazer, Stephen Brockwell, Helen Adam, Sasha Steensen, Ryan Alexander MacDonald, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Jack Morgan, Jr., Radu Dima, Larissa Szporluk, Teresia Teaiwa, Amiri Baraka, Monica Mody, Vincent Katz, Jen Benka, Roberto Harrison, Edward Byrne, Patrick Rosal, Cheryl Townsend, Carol Novack, Clive Thompson, Mary Biddinger, Erica Lewis, Michael Robins, Mira Schor, Severo Sarduy, John Taggart, Lauren Krueger, Wanda O’Connor, Peter Van Toorn, Kevin Varrone, Mark Axelrod, Erica Svec, Erik Donald France, Daniel Green, Marilyn Hacker, Ben Wilkinson, Stephanie Young, David Hall, Joe Moffet, Ric Royer, Basil Bunting, Peter Everwine, Terryanne Chebet, Philip Messenger, Maurice Sendak, Barrett Gordon, Shonni Enelow, Hannah Weiner, Dan Vera, Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Douglas James Martin, Randall Williams, Phil Crippen, Roy Kiyooka, Anita Dolman, Chris Martin, Max Ernst, Michael Rothenberg, Adeena Karasick, D.H. 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Butkus, Katoh Ikuya, Lin Kelsey, Joan Larkin, Wystan Curnow, Alessandro Porco, Brian Seabolt, Summi Kaipa, Elizabeth Zechel, Thomas Lowe Taylor, Derek Walcott, Carla Milo, Nelly Sachs, Pattie Cowell, Mark Young, Sam Witt, Jed Rasula, Elizabeth Willis, Pamela Lawton, Sandra Seekins, Dave Lovely, Christopher Sindt, Jennifer Rogers, Ben Lerner, Richard Johnny John, Denton Welch, Andre Breton, Peli Grietzer, Erik Sapin, Jonathan Doherty, Michaela Cooper, Cathy Park Hong, Jake Berry, Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, Julie Choffel, Alan de Niro, Katie Cappello, F.J. Bergmann, Robert Doto, Zackary Sholem Berger, Nina Alvarez, Katie Haegele, Elizabeth Block, Theo van Doesburg, Jon Frankel, Andrew Lundwall, Lily Brown, Ken Belford, Lisa Robertson, Chris Pusateri, Patrick Chapman, David Daniels, Maurice Blanchot, Georg Trakl, Frank Simone, Tony Barnstone, Thomas A. Clark, John Tranter, Dale Smith, James Tate, Joel Lewis, James Schiller, Dylan Kinnett, Richard Gilbert, George Economou, Tony Trehy, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, Ophelia Mourne, Harlan Erskine, Melissa Benham, Kahlil Gibran, Jen Tynes, Hannah Craig, A.M. Correa, Katie Acheson, Nazim Hikmet, Brian Lucas, Louis Cabri, Maggie Dubris, Richard Bank, Alan Loney, Stephanie Countiss Emens, Erin Pringle, Anthony Metivier, Marie Buck, Zachary Chartkoff, Jan Oskar Hansen, Michael Jarrett, James Cook, Philip Metres, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Vachel Lindsay, Michael Scharf, o. hunt, Ann M. Fine, Alfred Jarry, John Wood, Robert Desnos, Michael Gause, Danielle Dutton, Jonathan Jones, Eric Mottram, Mary Jo Bang, John Deming, D. Antwan Stewart, Hugh MacDiarmid, Rob, Eleanor Wilner, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Scott Hartwich, Four Horsemen, Gregory Betts, Bill Berkson, Laurel Ransom, George Schneeman, Kristy Odelius, Lisa Cohen, Sina Queyras, Eric Baus, Angela Vasquez-Giroux, David Miller, MaryAnn McCarra Fitzpatrick, D.A. Powell, Julia Story, Andrea Lawlor, Jane Falk, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Ellen Baxt, Gisele Prassinos, Ruth Taylor, Laura Harper, artie gold, Jeni Olin, Sergei Gandlevsky, Lila Zemborain, Tony Tost, Juan Jose Flores, Brian Mihok, Tan Lin, Sarojini Sahoo, Paul Siegell, Nicole Mauro, Caroline Conway, Merrill Gillfillan, Geoffrey, Philip Rowland, Jonathan Evison, Ira Joel Haber, Melissa Pakalinsky, Susan Kaiser Greenland, Daniel Bailey, Jenny Boully, Djuna Barnes, David Wolach, Nick Twemlow, Rodney Koeneke, Cheryl Snell, Jennifer K. Dick, Reggie Harris, Peter Ganickz, Sheila Murphy, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Greg Rappleye, Alasdair Gray, Len Shneyder, Zack Linmark, John Seed, Paul Ford, Rachel Mallino, Jan Bindas-Tenney, Tim Botta, The Pines, Ecce Mulier, Kenneth Goldsmith, Daniel Pritchard, R. Zamora Linmark, Karen Wagner, Camille Roy, Steven Gould Axelrod, Vassilis Zambaras, James Bow, Steve Roberts, Ron Padgett, Jason Labbe, Donora Hillard, Larry Kearney, Kristen Orser, Ed Ruscha, Louise Waller, Sherri Wood, Miriam Jones, Steven Moore, Robert Hershon, Patry Francis, Dave Cook, Sara Veglahn, Alfred Leslie, Henri Michaux, C.K. Williams, Doc Searls, Lars Amund Vaage, Rae Armantrout, Rodrigo Flores, Allen Bramhall, Rigoberto Gonzales and Katha Pollitt, Anatol Stern, Sina Fazelpour, Sarith Peou, Harold Jaffe, L.L. De Mars, Peggy Kelley, Sara Marcus, David Applegate, Lisa Janssen, Jim Moore, Edmond Jabes, Ruth, Wei Ying-Wu, India Radfar, Matthew Cooperman, David Dowker, Laird Hunt, Mina Loy, Erin Bertram, Will Alexander, J. F. Quackenbush, John Gallaher, Robert Ashley, Benjamin Paloff, Andrew Neuendorf, Kusano Shimpei, Dion Farquhar, Lisa, Emily Gordon, Karen Plata, Dinah Roma, Doug Lang, Claire Becker, Caryl Pagel, Walter Mosley, Stephanie Stickland, Frank Sherlock, Justin Dodd, Katina Papson, Daniel Zimmerman, Keith Waldrop, Douglas Manson, Charles Olson, Bill Peschel, Franklin Bruno, Nathan Hauke, Paul Hoover, William Moor, C. Harris Stevens, Walter Abish, Amy Lemmon, Claude Royet-Journoud, John Keene, Aaron Armstrong Skomra, Jordan Sanderson, Reg Johanson, Peter Yovu, Daniel Pendergrass, John Beer, Justin Lacour, Jennifer Moxley, Nathan Lang, Hazel Smith, Iamnasra Oman, pr primeau, Sheryl Luna, Jonathan Ball, Terry Southern, Christian Peet, Pierre Joris, Oana Avasilichioaei, Arunta, Deanna Ferguson, Tom Phillips, Susan Schultz, Jason Camlot, David Kirschenbaum, Gail Mazur, Jack Hughes, Zack Finch, J.H.Prynne, Rebecca Loudon, Scott Inguito, Esmail Yazdanpour, Naftali Bacharach, Jennifer Osborne, Sylvia Plath, Richard Lopez, Sandy Baldwin, Kirsten Lavers, Andrew Christ, Ann Lauterbach, Shelly Taylor, Nicole Peyrafitte, Jessica Savitz, Sam Golden Rule Jones, K. Silem Mohammad, Lionel Kearns, Lili Bita, Aime Cesaire, R W Sturgess, James Moran, Mike Topp, Dan Featherston, Chris Daniels, Gregory Botts, Nicole Oquendo, Thomas Devaney, Randall, Keith Shein, William Harris, Rik Roots, Patricia Carragon and Andy Comess, Alejandro Tarrab, Matthew Shindell, Eric Gamalinda, Amy Bernier, Spencer Selby, Simone Muench, Piombino, Michelle Buchanan, David Lehman, Jonathan Skinner, Sandra Beasley, Patricia Spears Jones, Hal Saulson, Laura Riding, Taylor Mali, Nam June Paik, W.B. Yeats, Peter Reading, Graham Foust, Brenda Coultas, Emily Lloyd, Ed Skoog, D.G. Jones, Vicente Huidobro, Jared Schickling, Peter Sacks, Kate Pringle, Rita Wong, Laila Lalami, Nancy Friedman, Franz Kafka, Robert Hellam, Brian Campbell, Danny Fields, Mario Cafiero, Peter Ciccariello, Cat Tyc, Nate Pritts, Andrea Brady, Andy Frazee, Felino Soriano, Clair Becker, Soumana Dasgupta, Jill Riga, David Raphael Israel, Stacey Levine, Mike Magee, Tim Yu, Cesar Vallejo, Isidore Ducasse, Amanda Earl, Romina Freschi, Alan Halsey, Daniel f. Bradley, Charles Rossiter, Noelle Kocot, Jayne Pupek, Aldous Huxley, Deborah Fries, Alani Apio, Jessica Smith, Christopher Barnes, Rick Snyder, Sarah Lang, Emily Dickinson, Cecilia Ann, bpNichol, Susanna Fry, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Borkhuis, Herman Beavers, Stephanie Skura, Jessica Bennett, Steve Carey, Madeline Gins, Thom Donovan, Chuck Perrin, Luci Tapahonso, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Ira Cohen, Marko J. Niemi, Ray Davis, Nancy Gandhi, Dee Rimbaud, Mary O'Malley, Evie Ivie, Pamela Mack, Lawrence Lessig, Allyssa Wolf, and Snezana Zabic.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Poetry without preconditions: Rahi translation

Below is a translation by Mohammad Mostaghim (Rahi) of my poem "Vow" into Farsi. As poets, we can communicate "without preconditions," whatever Sarah Palin might say.


We will love like dogwood
Kiss like cranes
Die like moths
I promise

©2007, Larissa Shmailo

لاريسا شمايلو 2007

پيمان بهار

ما عشق خواهيم ورزيد

مثل زغال اخته

بوسه خواهيم زد

مثل درناها

خواهيم مرد

مثل پروانگان

من نويد مي‌دهم

گزاشتار: محمّد مستقيمي(راهي)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Out now: Masthead 11: Poetryetc: Poems and Poets An anthology edited by Andrew Burke and Candice Ward

Out now: Masthead 11: Poetryetc: Poems and Poets
An anthology edited by Andrew Burke and Candice Ward

"What made the Poetryetc listserv distinct from the beginning was John Kinsella¹s internationalism, and his vision of its being a space for collaborative projects as well as dialogue and exchange...From 1997, Poetryetc projects collectively represent hundreds of poems by dozens of poets, by any measure an extraordinary explosion of collective creativity....

"This anthology is the most recent of the Poetryetc projects. Edited by Candice Ward and Andrew Burke, with an e-book designed by Peter Ciccariello, it represents a selection of poems written by list members over the past few years. It includes many distinguished poets side by side with new or little known voices, and demonstrates the diversity and stylistic openness that was always a major strength of Poetryetc."

From Poetryetc: A Brief History by Alison Croggon

With poems from:

Rachel Loden | Martin Dolan | Kenneth Wolman | Renée Ashley | Patrick McManus | S.J. Litherland |Nathan Hondros | Sheila E. Murphy | Tina Bass | Trevor Joyce | Kasper Salonen | Larissa Shmailo | Halvard Johnson | Sally Evans | Glen Phillips | Mark Weiss | S.K. Kelen | Stephen Vincent | Tad Richards | Barry Alpert | Martin J. Walker | Jim Bennett |Gerald Schwartz | Peter Riley | Robin Hamilton | David Bircumshaw | Candice Ward | Peter Howard | Joanna Boulter | Jill Jones | John Kinsella | Randolph Healy | Bob Marcacci | Liz Kirby | Max Richards | Andrew Burke | Peter Larkin | Cindy Lee | Caleb Cluff | Douglas Barbour | Árni Ibsen | Janet Jackson | Lawrence Upton | Heather Taylor | Roger Collett | Peter Ciccariello |Harriet Zinnes | John Tranter | Sharon Brogan | Frederick Pollack | Pierre Joris | Alison Croggon

Labels: poetryetc anthology; Masthead

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Pedestal Magazine review of A Cure for Suicide

A Cure for Suicide
Larissa Shmailo
Cervená Barva Press

Reviewed for The Pedestal Magazine by Joselle Vanderhooft

Larissa Shmailo plumbed the depths of human emotion and the heights of such extreme human states as homelessness, madness and grief in her dramatic 2006 spoken word CD The No-Net World. Although the majority of the poems in her latest chapbook, A Cure for Suicide, read less like conventional monologues, the turbulence, sensuality and unabashed wildness that engirds her earlier work is very much alive in these twenty-four poems. Indeed, the book's leading poem "Vow" (here reproduced in full) provides an uncannily accurate epigraph for the chapbook's mood and feel.

We will love like dogwood.
Kiss like cranes.
Die like moths.
I promise.

"Vow" is a provoking promise for a passion that is as expansive as it is unconventional (after all, while "we will love like dogwood" is not a typical image to describe passion, the dogwood is a species of tree that blooms riotously). Shmailo delivers on this promise in poems such as "My First Hurricane," a heavy and wet description of a dizzying love affair, the wry "Dancing with the Devil" and "At the Top of My Lungs," a sharp, dark look at the narrow gap between love and violence. True to her interest in poetry as spoken word and her numerous poetry and music CDs, these riotous dogwood blossoms of poems often demand that they be read aloud, even sung. At times, the reader may even catch him or herself slapping a hand against a thigh or tapping a toe in time with the poet's effortless rhymes and tight, but never restrictive, meter. Shmailo writes in "Personal":

I want to know
what makes you

I want to know
what makes you
fickle; I want to know
what makes you

Tell me

which ion propels you
which soothsayer spells you
which folksinger trills you
which hardwood distills you
which downward dog twists you
which protest resists you
which neural net fires you
which siren desires you

Shmailo even uses her sense of musicality to play with her readers, to force them to engage with the text kinetically in ways beyond just squirming to her poetry's pulse. In "Sea (Sic)," she presents the reader with this intriguing puzzle as a type of stage direction: "Please read the stanzas in any order you like." The speaker, meanwhile, presents his or her lover with a similar challenge:

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
the order of my words.

Indeed, read in every possible way, "Sea (Sic)" flows like the tides of an ocean and mirrors the often obtuse language of desire between lovers. It also makes perfect sense.

For readers who may long for some of the more straightforward "dramatic monologues" Shmailo presented in efforts such as The No-Net World, there is no need to despair. Although many of the poems in A Cure for Suicide are shorter and more abstract than those on the spoken word CDs, the title poem "How to Meet and Dance with Your Death (Como encuentrar y bailar con su muerte): A Cure for Suicide" is a fantastic story (in the truest sense of the word) about the human lust to know death, to see the way in which one will die, to flirt with one's own mortality and hold it close. In this prose poem (which reads like the very best of magic realist fiction) a woman is able to meet and dance with her personal Death by way of a strange and deadly recipe that consists of mostly alcohol, cigarettes, peyote and "coffee as needed" and a number of excesses that recipe brings on: wild dancing, frantic singing and flirtation with two psychopomps who lead the speaker to her Death. However, the ritual can only be performed once. To do it more is "common."

...If you do this more than once, you will do it
often, and then you will become an old borracha who sleeps with
common men. Punto.

Arguably the book’s most engrossing poem (perhaps because of its strong narrative engine), "How to Meet and Dance with Your Death" is a taut piece of fantastic literature that discusses, with no lack of sexiness and slyness, the ways in which humanity's all-too-common todeslust can be tamed, mocked, teased and ultimately turned into a virtue.

Larissa Shmailo is a poet who sings, and fans of her spoken word CDs—as well as readers who enjoy their poetry flush with life, lust and the more awkward aspects of both—will find a lot to love in her latest offering.

Monday, August 25, 2008

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.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

List of Words Never To Be Used in Poems

List of Words Never To Be Used in Poems

Soul, being, essence, fire, dream, auburn, scent, inhumanity, starry, ripe, free, heaven, transcend, memory, butterfly, chrysalis, please, mad, ecology, teach, tear, lachrymose, cry, frown, smile, love, thought, potential, season, poetry, verse. Transubstantiate, transform, ascend, breathe, breath, usurp, sing, shudder, genius, antihero, thrush, lark birdsong, exaltation, maid, woman, man, men, attempt, right, am, word, tresses, thrill. Form, character, said, desire, longing, elm, oak, tree, flame, yearn, burn, consume, new, human, bow, warrior, want, page, blank. And so far, you agree. Well, then…

Understanding, unique, déluge,manqué, mensch , wheelbarrow, manifest, palimpsest, avatar, sight, seer, samovar, light, ingredient, save, Oprah, Jerry, nothing, but, yet. The, a, loneliness, mélange , sea, lighthouse, tower, healing, light, use, underscore, trial, Kafka, yes, shop, radiant, garden, fore, yore, music, recollection, last, addiction, evolution. First, over, in, DNA, Darwinian, medicate, pharmacology, software, star, hardwired, stellar, bang. Relate, relationship, query, queer, think, survivor, mine, pain, sorrow, tragedy, woe, enter, laughing, mope. Still with me? How about…?

Life, live, living, hope, horror, help, one, singularity, Buddha, art, bomb, arms, lines, marital, Broadway, show, tell, ask, mission, missive, missile, realm, wonder, wander, know, knowledge, reify, epistemological, portent, magic, magical, many, omnipotent, avuncular, very, theme, adjective, parse, nun, father, mother, brother, we, our, us, I. Eye, omnibus, rarity, time, past, future, date, number, year, one, abstract, narrative, native, experiment, fusion, phrase, quote, café. Random ( or mad), insight, learned, spirit, well, good, thanks, fine, good. You?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Reviews of my chapbook, A Cure for Suicide

A Cure for Suicide
Reviews of my collection, "A Cure for Suicide"

Doug Holder, Ibbetson Street Press
In a “Cure for Suicide” by Larissa Shmailo, Shmailo writes (as the founder of Fulcrum Magazine Philip Nikolayev points out in his introduction) as if she is …” constitutionally predestined to sing out her lines…her eyes filled with life and love, pain and death, freedom and coercion, the real of the mind and the imagined of the heart.” In the poem “Dancing with the Devil,” the poet sings about the need to throw caution to the wind and trip the light fantastic with the Devil:

“They say if you flirt with death,

You’re going to get a date;

But I don’t mind—the music’s fine,

And I love dancing with someone who can really lead.”

Shmailo puts herself in the deceptive calmness of the eye of a hurricane, asks us to tell her what makes us tic, and takes us on the Harlem River Line, like the “Duke” took us on the “A” train. In a sea of mimics this poet is an original voice.

--Doug Holder, Ibbetson Street Press

A Cure For Suicide (Cervena Barva Press) by Larissa Shmailo
reviewed by Richard Barrett

The key to unlocking Larissa Shmailo’s A Cure For Suicide is found in the collection’s penultimate poem: ‘Exorcism (Found Poem)’. The primary subject matter of that piece is the My Lai massacre in Vietnam; the secondary subject is the showing of the linkage between the domestic and the international. In this specific case how lawbreakers in America, at the time, were given the option of joining the army as an alternative to imprisonment. The piece is making the point that with an army so constituted – i.e. made up to a large degree of soldiers who had no particular desire to be there and who were, furthermore ‘poorly trained’ – it’s surprising there weren’t repetitions of My Lai. It’s an understanding of how seemingly disparate subject matters are linked that Shmailo wants us to take from that poem; and it’s by applying that understanding to her whole, wonderful collection that we begin to get a handle on Shmailo’s worldview.

Reading A Cure For Suicide Shmailo’s themes and preoccupations make themselves known to us. There’s “movement”: the identifying of personal turmoil with the turmoil of nature, as explored in ‘My First Hurricane’. Then the whirling, spinning inebriated dancing of the title poem follows, which, in turn, is followed by the nihilistic ‘Dancing with the Devil’. She returns to contemplating the movement of nature in ‘Oscillation’, informing us how ‘The world was born in swing and sway’, going on, then, to consider movement of a poetically technical kind in ‘Sea (Sic)’, where she addresses us in the italicized parenthesis under the title: (Readers: Please read the stanzas in any order you like.)* So for Shmailo, even the words of her poems cannot be assumed to be stationery; even they are just as subject to the possibilities of movement as everything else in the world.

As already stated, “nature” is also a feature of this collection. Besides the two poems mentioned above, there is ‘Vow’ which opens the collection, wherein the protagonist reassuringly describes to her lover how their affair will have all the characteristics of nature. Then there is the remarkable ‘Aerial View of the Rockies’: containing the wonderful image of ‘gods [who] like to trace their fingers in the world; / Like leaves from a primordial tree’ as an explanation for how the dips between mountains occur. The world is anthropomorphised as we are told ‘landforms / Bare their veins’. The poem displays a deep Eco-consciousness as we become aware that the person with the ‘Aerial View of the Rockies’ is realising the earth is slowly dying: ‘Clever of her to suicide this way / Leaving no one but me to know’.

The adoption of the standard feminine in the addressing of the earth in ‘Aerial View of the Rockies’ points towards another of Shmailo’s concerns: that of being a woman. In the appropriately hallucinatory ‘Abortion Hallucination’ the image of a snake recurs. In the poem the snake has multiple meanings: it has biblical connotations, is meant to symbolise fear and is also meant to represent the penis. Shmailo captures the occasional embarrassment of sex: ‘remember that I like / handling snakes and smile / and as always he softens grows smaller’. Present in ‘Abortion Hallucination’ as a disturbing undercurrent, as well, is a suggestion of child abuse.

In ‘Ayah’ and ‘Bhakti’ we find spirituality and gods. ‘Ayah’ expresses bafflement at how and why Christianity developed given its origins. ‘Bhakti’ appears a challenge to Hinduism – offering redemption to an outcaste woman.

Returning to the collections title poem – ‘How to Meet and Dance with Your Death (Como encuentrar y bailar con su muerte): A Cure for Suicide’ - we see the emergence of another of Shmailo’s concerns: the blurring of the boundaries of the self resultant from alcohol and drug consumption. In this piece, seemingly heavily indebted to Malcolm Lowry’s Under The Volcano, the reader is provided with a recipe for intoxication:

‘2 gallons of pulque (fermented Mayan beverage), or if unavailable, gin
1 case tequila
several cases of beer
1 bottle Mescal
2 ounces good marijuana
carton cigarettes
three large peyotes
coffee as needed’

The drug experience is alluded to, again, in ‘Abortion Hallucination’.

Somewhat unexpectedly Shmailo also has a fondness for painting urban scenes with her poetry. She does it with great skill though; in ‘Untitled (Night, avenue…)’ we find: ‘Night, avenue, street lamps, the drug store, / irrational and dusky light. / Live another decade, two more - / It stays the same; there’s no way out’; and, in ‘Harlem Line’: ‘Auction: Sin City cabaret, Signs and awnings, / …Skate keys. Real estate. / Where open houses become closed. (All hope / like a lottery…’

What the reader needs to ask themselves – returning to the lesson of ‘Exorcism (Found Poem)’ - is: what linkage does Shmailo want us to make between these apparently unconnected themes? And because it isn’t mathematics we’re dealing with here, but poetry, every reader will answer that question differently.

I don’t think it’s a dodging of the question for me to say I’d prefer not to impose my own interpretation of A Cure For Suicide on any reader of this review, as I think the order that I’ve addressed the collections themes has gone some way towards suggesting how they may be linked (or at least how they seem linked to me); it’s just that I’d rather the collection's ambiguity be allowed to remain intact, in order for every reader to make of it what they will.

One final note: the most linguistically innovative poem of the collection is ‘Bloom’ – perhaps not surprisingly as it’s to a large extent inspired by the Molly Bloom stream-of-consciousness at the end of Joyce’s Ulysses. Herein we find Shmailo free-associating (‘Ill-bred, no bread / Dirty whore’s puking / Just giving me head…’) and punning wildly (‘A weak bird’ referring to herself, using the English colloquialism of “bird” to mean “woman”, whilst at the same time extending the use of the bird images, meaning actual creatures of the air, which populate the poem; and ‘I’m a mammal, / I have mammaries,’). As ‘Bloom’ comes just before the end of A Cure For Suicide, it can be called a great note on which to close a great collection.

To order go to

Or send $7 to Gloria Mindock Cervena Barva Press POBOX 440357 W. Somerville, Ma. 02144

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First review of my new poetry CD, Exorcism

"I've been enjoying Larissa Shmailo's new spoken word CD, EXORCISM, particularly the track, "How to Meet and Dance with Your Death (Como Encuentrar y Bailar con Su Muerte): A Cure for Suicide." If you like it on the page, you'll love it out loud. You can sample it on her MySpace page too. This poem digs at you.

The whole CD digs, though, bringing forth fiery, unorthodox, visceral imagery of the Devil and Magdalena, lovers and torturers and survivors. She crafts breath, rhythm, and rhyme, with a relaxed and dancerly demeanor and natural authority. Subtle music accompaniment and vocal multitracking. Highly recommended. "---Anne Elliott, Ass Backwords

Exorcism is available from CDBABY.COM and at the St Marks Bookshop.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Kalinivka, Kalinivka: The ground over the mass graves is hard, the soft grass grows. The Ukrainian Guard, boy and girl, make love, happy to be alive. In the Ukraine, collectivized, they walked on corpses. And the Germans alone protest, the father tells the girl. Siberia, purges. Like the Irish, their parents collaborated eagerly; Hitler fought their masters. Now here, Kalinivka. The mass graves crack with green life. 1941 is forgotten by the summer of ’43. She is 19, pregnant soon.

By 1943, the ghetto holds the few not deported, living in tunnels, basements, caves, the hiding ones, the ones who know. All the rest to camps in Poland, Germany, or dead. The boy no longer likes the girl, but through her, he got his Kapo job. Even his mother says, marry. Have a child. The female Kapo bears a boy through the camps, Prymsl, through the unknown tombs of Poland, the unmarked graves, the walls marked with Jewish blood, the bloody broken nooses, the dark rain. She wants the boy to marry her, he makes excuses, says, the Germans won’t permit. That the child will die soon after the war, that she will beat her head upon the grave until it bleeds, that sorrow is unknown. The death of the Jewish children is unseen. Poland is always green.

Germany, Harz Mountains. The Germans turn now, now SS. The war is failing. Fewer the slaves to command, the girl, heavy with child, translates, working, starving, carried in rail carts for miles to build the V-2s. A rachitic Jewess cleans the barracks, the boy’s eye turns, with pity, with lust; he gives her bread. From Erfurt to the extension camp, Buchenwald’s new Dora, Northausen. Here they spare the rope to hang. All are hungry, the Germans too. The Allies bomb the industrial camp. Liberation. Rows of corpses, the eternal rows, line Northausen. The Germans are forced to respect the dead. Kalinivka, Pryml, the unseen dead, now here in respectful symmetry, no longer piled in heaps, rectangular, marked. The flowers grow, the burgers sing, “After every December, there comes a new Spring.

Monday, May 19, 2008

First review of my new chapbook, A Cure for Suicide

Saturday, May 17, 2008


In a “Cure for Suicide” by Larissa Shmailo, Shmailo writes (as the founder of Fulcrum Magazine Philip Nikolayev points out in his introduction) as if she is …” constitutionally predestined to sing out her lines…her eyes filled with life and love, pain and death, freedom and coercion, the real of the mind and the imagined of the heart.” In the poem “Dancing with the Devil,” the poet sings about the need to throw caution to the wind and trip the light fantastic with the Devil:

“They say if you flirt with death,
You’re going to get a date;
But I don’t mind—the music’s fine,
And I love dancing with someone who can really lead.”

Shmailo put herself in the deceptive calmness of the eye of a hurricane, asks us to tell her what makes us tic, and takes us on the Harlem River Line, like the “Duke” took us on the “A” train. In a sea of mimics this poet is an original voice.

To order go to

Or send $7 to Gloria Mindock Cervena Barva Press POBOX 440357 W. Somerville, Ma. 02144

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ May 2008

Friday, May 09, 2008

Warsaw Ghetto

From the new CD Exorcism.

I am the Warsaw Ghetto
I am the underground railroad
I am a hero
I am the people who sang songs
Who said the Lord's prayer and the Sh'ma Yisrael
As the Nazis led them to the gas chamber.

I am a five year old girl in Jim Crow Mississippi going to school
I am Rosa Parks: I stand before the policeman
Before his club and his gun
And I say: no.
You can't have mine

They tortured me and I confessed, I couldn't help it
They put electrodes on my ---
And I screamed
I told them everything they wanted to hear
But I I I never believed them
I never believed their lies
I always believed in love
Could see, in the distance, the light
And wait---I know it will come
For help.

I am a survivor
Of Mama's torture
And Daddy's rape
At age one
Age two
Age three
And now

I survived the selfish fondlings
The inspection of my genitals
The picking, groping hands
The gangbang
The lies

I survived the prostitution
The mutilation and sedation
The betrayal and attempted murder of my soul.

Don't tell me there is no God.
Who else helped me?
It wasn't you.
I called on God to help me.
There was no one else:
No mother
No father
No teacher
No preacher
No Rabbi
No doctor
No friend.

My enemies were powerful
Like Hitler and the Ghetto
But I held out
And when I tried to collaborate, wanting to die,
When I tried to surrender
I couldn't do it.
I had to stand up
Had to fight
No matter how many times they
Knocked me down
Called me crazy
Made me cry.

In the Ghetto
In the sewers
There is a record
A diary like mine
Of people who loved
Of people who fought
Of people who fought and won
No matter what anybody says.

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