Monday, March 24, 2014

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).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Father of a Ghost (after Stephen Dedalus's Theory of Hamlet in Ulysses)

James Joyce b. February 2
Hamnet Shakespeare baptized February 2

Father of a ghost, but from the charnel dead!
Truepenny called, but bid his one son read
A woeful bedtime tale. So list: if Hamnet were
A suicide (the rest, what is the rest?); if Shakespeare were
Behorned by Ann (and her way hath will, clear)
And asked the poor young Hamnet now to kill the ‘dulterous peer,
(Perhaps to pour the poison in the porches of his ear?)
Cert, he would read just like a crab, ass backward and in fear:
Hamlet (his twin), ou le Distrait, une Pièce de Père Shakespeare;
Ophelia-like, rosemary clad, made mad with that despair.
Or … if the canon ‘gainst self-slaughter held fast,
Would he be murdered with all murdered at last?
And, scarred by family the most,
Who would rise to be his ghost?

From #specialcharacters by Larissa Shmailo, available from Amazon and Unlikely Books.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Night of Sirens: Benefit for Made by Survivors at the Bitter End 3/20

In honor of Women's History Month, I am excited to invite you to a special musical event to celebrate and empower women at the legendary Bitter End, 147 Bleecker Street (info: (212) 673-7030, this Thursday, 3/20 at 9:00 pm.

A Night of Sirens is a concert featuring twenty singer-songwriters (and one poet, yours truly, backed by rock legend Lisa Bianco). The night will feature indie music, jazz, and good old fashioned rock 'n roll.

There will be performances by Arlene Gould | ארלין גולד, Becca Bernard, Chawa Lilith, Christina LaRocca, Dorothy Eagle, Dez Ismusic, Ellia Bisker, Erel Pilo, Ionie, Katie J Louchheim, Kjersti Kveli, Larissa Shmailo, Lisa Bianco, Lyndol Descant, Michael W McHugh, Nicole Lana Camacho, Peter Bliss, Rew AsteriCk, Sal Mastrocola & Erin Bagwell, and Stephanie Gandelman!

There is a $10 suggested donation which will benefit Made By Survivors, a non-profit charity dedicated to empowering women from around the world who are survivors of slavery, sex trafficking and other human rights abuses. Learn more about the great strides they are making here:

Please join us on the first day of spring to hear the song of the Sirens!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jamas Volveré

To touch the sidereal limits with the hands—Otero

To see you is to see a warm brown bird
flash in a black night: I shudder.

Gone are the stars that are not the sun
that punctuate heights no longer heights,
heights become space. Things I will never know
with my proximity senses are gone, all gone:

I will never hear a star upon this earth,
but I feel the warm gusts your wings stir up.
If in the daytime I were to leave bread and fruit for you,
you might come again. I am not so different from
the mangrove swamp where you play.

Dedicated to the victims of the Park Avenue gas explosion in El Barrio.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Death of a Reader

What happens to a writer when her favorite reader dies?

The Russian poet Alexander Pushkin said that poets need readers like drunks need vodka. As a poet, I can attest to the truth of this statement. On December 27, 2013, the unthinkable happened—my sister, Tamara Shanahan, champion of my work and my favorite reader, died of complications from a mass on her gall bladder. I lost a sister that day, but also something more. The loss of my sibling is compounded by the loss of a nigh irreplaceable set of loving eyes on my work and a precious and intimate communication through words, not only written, but also appreciated.

I called my sister Tamara “Theo,” after the equally supportive brother of Vincent van Gogh, who cared for his brother, nurtured his talent, and more than once sent urgently needed funds to the artist. Tamara was always available to listen to a new poem, and perhaps, just perhaps, over-praised a few. She also bought my books and CDs by the dozens, handing them out to her friends and neighbors; everyone at her chiropractor’s office got a copy of my CD, The No-Net World, special to us because its cover is a vintage photo of my parents.

Her favorite poem was about older women:


Ladybug, the autumnal, menopausal forest is aflame,
Burning with your yearning and desire: go home.
No season of mists or mellow fruitfulness for you, only
The hot flash of Eros dying, growing old.

Fall now, the deep loam envelopes your breasts,
Dugs that hang low. The crimson leaves as
Veined as your hands, varices red and blue,
Glitter with last dew, the brilliance before death.

Can you, withered Phoenix, rise?
Female over fifty, do you have your music too?

But she also liked my bawdy “The Other Woman’s Cunt” and encouraged me to be bold and perform and publish it.

Tamara used to liken us to “city mouse and country mouse,” with me living in Manhattan and active in various artistic scenes, and my sister living quietly in Queens, enjoying her family and neighbors. We attributed adventurousness to me, always seeking the new, and conventionality to her. Yet what seemed unadventurous in her was perhaps the greatest adventure of all, in her thirty-year long committed relationship with another human being, David Rosen, whom she loved with every particle of her being and was loved by in return. And that love also shone on her late daughter, Irene, and, no matter how obnoxious I was, on me, too.

Part of the balcony at my readings will never light again, a page from my manuscripts will always be missing. My favorite reader has left the house, never to return, and with her, a part of my literary courage and inspiration.

Dedicated to the memory of Tamara Shanahan (August 7, 1948–December 27, 2013).

- See more at:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reactions to Larissa Shmailo's new poetry collection, "#specialcharacters"

This is a thrilling book of femininity and magic. When it comes to capturing the intimacy of pain, This Larissa Shmailo is among the most daring poets of her generation. When speaking of human rights, she is a human flame. She is subtle and provocative, fresh and out of bounds. You will fall in love here, and you will be loved right back.
—Philip Nikolayev

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.
—Elaine Equi

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.
—Steve Dalachinsky

Now available from Amazon and Unlikely Books.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Reading at Hot Pillow, Seattle AWP: The Other Woman's Cunt

Thanks to Joani Reese for throwing the hottest off-site party at Seattle AWP, Hot Pillow, and for inviting me to read my reticent and reflective (not) poem, "The Other Woman's Cunt." Please copy and paste link if you don't require PC poetry.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Boston launch of my new collection, #specialcharacters

Please join me for a reading in Cambridge launching my new collection, #specialcharacters featuring the Boston area's finest poets, editors, and publishers:

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
Sherrill Library
Lesley University
89 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138

See you there!

Monday, March 03, 2014

My Foreword to Shadows of the Future: An Otherstream Anthology, edited by Marc Vincenz

Foreword and Forewarned

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

-Larissa Shmailo

Blog Archive