Sunday, December 31, 2017

Come out of the darkness about depression this holiday.


On the perfect roof, near a perfect ledge,
A small terra firma with a narrow edge,
No temporizing with last-minute balance,
No handhold, no foothold, no anchor, no ballast.
And once committed, once into the air,
No hovering, no kiting, no waiting there.
The polygonal street and the shining dark cars
Attacked at meters per second squared.
Once over, soon over: a thing done just once:
Like fireworks and New Years’ bells, fast and intense,
Quite finite, soon finished, thought long, slow begun,
And forgotten by others like the old year now done.

Auld Lang Syne

Robert Burns (Scotland, 1759-1796)
Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint stowp! 
And surely I'll be mine! 
And we'll tak a cup o'kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c.
We twa hae run about the braes, 
And pou'd the gowans fine; 
But we've wander'd mony a weary fit, 
Sin' auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c.
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn, 
Frae morning sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roar'd 
Sin' auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c.
And there's a hand, my trusty fere! 
And gie's a hand o' thine! 
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught, 
For auld lang syne. 
For auld, &c.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


I am not surprised that the word *vulnerable* is banned at the CDC; this seems a logical extension of the Trumpian worldview. There are no vulnerable persons to a bully; there are simply weaklings, crips, marks. The compassionate person sees vulnerability and says, this person needs my help; the Trumpian sees vulnerability and says, this person can be taken.
Auden put it best in "The Shield of Achilles" :
A ragged urchin, aimless and alone, 
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Skin in the Game

As a person with a mental illness, I have skin in the game of the Trump resistance. Nazis (now, sweethearts, is there really any lingering doubt that Trump is a Nazi?) routinely gassed mentally ill and other disabled people. As eugenicists and ableists, fascists exterminate you if you can't be used for free or cheap labor. Remember that loud dog whistle to the base, Trump's gleefully mocking the New York Times reporter with ankylosing spondylitis, and see Jeff Session's recent attack on regulations protecting disabled people. Not to mention the wholesale Republican war on Medicaid and Obamacare. They will be coming after the Americans with Disabilities Act next, and I intend to fight them every step of the way.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Brodsky Nativity Poem: Christmas Star

Christmas Star

by Joseph Brodsky
Tr. L. Shmailo
In a cold time, in a place accustomed more
To scorching heat, than cold, to the flatness of plain,
than hills: A child was born in a cave to save the world.
And it stormed, as only winter desert storms can.

Everything seemed huge to him: his mother’s breast,
The yellow steam of the camels’ breath. And from afar,
Their gifts carried here, the Magi, Balthazar, Melchior, Caspar.
He was all of him just a dot. And that dot was a star.
Attentively and fixedly through the sparse clouds,
Upon the recumbent child in the manger, through the night’s haze,
From the depths of the universe, from its end and bound,
A star watched over the cave. And that was the Father’s gaze.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Rich people are rich more because of your efforts than theirs. It's pretty simple. You are paid a fraction of what the product you produce is worth. Your boss pockets the rest. You also pay taxes for the roads and bridges and transportation and construction that business uses; they get a chunk of your sales taxes, too. And you pay for their employees' education. *And* you contribute to government tax breaks and incentives, especially nowadays. Many other freebies. When it comes to the one percent, you support them, not the other way around.
If you say this, you will be attacked. You will be called a loser and accused of envy. You might lose your job. But it is true. Capitalism is socialism for rich people.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Trump Is Winning and We Are Wimps

Trump is winning and we are wimps. He owns the Internet now, will control 72 percent of television now that DOJ has approved Sinclair's acquisition of Tribune (not counting FOX), owns the courts, has taught local police to be brutal, has listed Black Lives Matter and other black organizations as terrorist groups, has successfully incited Nazis, KKK, and other gun-toters to violence, and has triumphantly dominated the Republican Party. And like any good fascist, he has cemented his relationship with business with his tax bill. He's right - he and his generals really have done more than any other dictators in one year. We have been outmaneuvered, and better wake up to that fact going forward.

Friday, December 15, 2017


1. Establish charismatic leader.
2. Acclimate populace to propaganda and lies.
3. Undermine democratic institutions.
4. Attack opposition, especially media, intellectuals, minority groups.
5. Start hauling away #4 to concentration camps.
6. Leave behind a cult-like nation of troglodytes to inform on one another.
7.Go down in history as an abomination and an object lesson that some may learn from, hopefully.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

This Is Different

The lip service to democratic values is gone, the judiciary is a tool of the executive, the media as watchdog is vastly undermined, propaganda is rife (Sinclair with the merger will reach 72 percent of TV households), the government is a white supremacist one, fascist governments are our models, right wing evangelicals are successfully taking evolution out of our schools and now, with the tax bill, can wage political campaigns without losing nonprofit status, climatology and other sciences are under attack, so much more. This is not business as usual; this is fascism and we have to fight with all our might now, literally all our might all the time, or else.

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Soon" Is Now

In every political campaign, every hustings, when we bring up women's rights, we are told, "Let's just win this district, this election, get this candidate in, and we promise, you are next, soon, soon." Well, thanks to the courage of the women who have confronted their sexual abusers, "soon" is now. The battle to secure our persons against battery and rape and demeaning harassment has been joined. Equal pay and full reproductive rights have to follow.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Elephants, Sexual Predation, The Mob

Donald Trump, Jr. killed a rare bull elephant just to cut off its tail and hold it in his filthy, guilty hands. Trump senior is a sexual predator and a white supremacist. Ivanka exploits slave labor and fronts for the crime-filled dirty money of Trump Panama. And they are all guilty of treason. What a disgusting mob the Trumps are!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Banality of Evil

One meaning of the phrase, "the banality of evil," coined by Hannah Arendt reporting for the New Yorker on Adolf Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem for war crimes, is that the evil do not always give the appearance of monsters. Arendt saw no satanic genius in Eichmann, just an ordinary man, perhaps even a clown. And now we see our clownish, banal, very ordinary president and his banal, ordinary cabinet and banal, ordinary Republican henchmen rapidly erode our freedoms and democracy. Time to fight vigorously now, as Trump most heinous actions are normalized for a very ordinary and banal third of the electorate.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hitler's Cookies

Hitler's followers baked cookies, played sports, loved movies. Most, I'm sure, loved their families and were kind to their pets. None of that remains. We feel only contempt and loathing for these fascists. Trump supporters, nothing of your legacy will remain except your support of an evil leader. Absolutely nothing else.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review of MEDUSA'S COUNTRY by Meredith Sue Willis in Books for Readers

Medusa's Country is more stunning poems from Larissa Shmailo. She is endlessly surprising, riffing off other literature-- an erasure poem using lines from "The Lotus Eaters" section in Joyce's Ulysses; one called "My Vronsky" with reference to Nabokov's failure to understand Anna Karenina-- but also about a relationship destructive to the narrator. There is also a poem called "Daddy's Elusive Love" with short lines and hard-hitting rhymes like 's Sylvia Plath's famous "Daddy." Shmailo's Daddy,. though seems to have hidden his love.

I looked for it in boxers;
In the dumps of ten detoxes;
In the roll of rundown rockers;
In anal & banal boys.

There is, of course, a lot more Here, as in her previous books, we have passages of her personal story of living on the edge and in the lower depths as in the "The Trick Wants to Go to Plato's," the old Plato's Retreat sex club where single men aren't. The narrator, who is indeed in the sex business, says " I sign a document attesting that I am not a prostitute; my whore name is Nora."
These poems alternate with ones using myth and rhyming patterns and parody (See "Fragment from the Ilatease of Homey, from a Recently Discovered Mycenaean Test." The final poem of the book, the title poem, about Medusa, ends

But once a man stood like a statue
Before my cave of trees
His eyes transfixed by my serpents
That hardened, froze, and pleased.

You will never be bored by Larissa Shmailo's poetry. I don't suppose that sounds like much of a recommendation to read it, but what I want to say is that her inventiveness and wit are only matched by her searing life experiences and her observation of death.
She surprises over and over.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Honey Badger Don't Care

This vid is a favorite among the Alt Right. The tough, crazy, unstoppable animal totem, the honey badger, "doesn't care," "doesn't give a shit." These are the values of the alt right, not to care, to be tough, never to be sensitive or kind, values embodied by Donald Trump.
Breitbart declared "The Age of the Honey Badger Has Dawned" shortly after Trump's election; all concerned are working hard to make it a reality, and promise never to quit. I also promise not to quit until this nation expresses caring and kindness in all its affairs. But the Alt Right has to go back to the badger hole it came from.

There is no such thing as nonviolent Nazis

Or Klan. 
They want to kill you. If you are disabled, mentally ill, black, brown, Muslim, feminist, Jewish, LGBT, or leftist, they want you dead or enslaved. Don't be confused about that. And their affiliates want the same. They are much more extreme than you can imagine. I spend time on their websites for a book I am writing, and almost pass out from the murderous rage of these monsters. Almost. 
They are lifting weights, stockpiling arms, get ready as we speak. The president of the United States loves them. Do not think Trump will not use them for violent ends.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

White Nasties

White nasties believe the white race is under attack. The marchers Friday night chanted "you will not replace us." They believe POCs will "replace them," that they will be a minority, and imagine they will be treated as they have treated minorities. And terrorism is "an act of love for the white race." See the Nazi video, "Neo-Nazi Skinhead has a point" for an example of one of their Aryan role models
For every one marcher, there are thousands of people who believe in the white nasty stuff; I would estimate 25 million racists, racist enough to cast their vote for an extremely racist president. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Nazi Signs and Symbols

As evidenced by yesterday's march at the University of Virginia, Nazi and white supremacist groups are forging alliances, uniting, and proselytizing. Be on the lookout for their signs and symbols, which include the versatile Pepe the Frog meme. This meme appears as racial caricature, Hitler, concentration camp "humor," and even as alt-right hero Donald Trump; per Joshua Green, Trump has sent this meme to his fans on reddit, and alt-right leader Richard Spenser wears a Pepe pin). 
More classic signs are tats with the numbers 14, 18, 88, which refer numerologically to Hitler's name and Nazi slogans; the Nazi SS sig and other runes; and even AC/DC logos (these refer to Nazi vids set to this music). Of course, the true messaging of the Alt Right (who are not all Nazis; they just don't mind hanging out with Nazis) is in Trump's attacks on immigrants, Latinos, LGBT persons, African Americans, women, and people with disabilities - yes, Trump's mocking of the disabled NYT reporter was red meat to this base and their ableism beliefs. 
Do not for a moment think that Donald Trump is not completely aligned with these movements. His chief strategist may not be a Nazi, but Bannon's reading list shows he is willing to use Nazi philosophy. White supremacists and their fans are Trump's best hope for an 8-year presidency, and the years beyond.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Sinclair Broadcasting Group - Alt-Right Propaganda

I am deeply troubled. Sinclair Broadcasting Group, whose news programs make Fox News seem centrist, is attempting to acquire Tribune Media. The resulting megamedia would saturate 80 percent of the nation. Their glowing coverage of Trump is devoid of fact, literally pure propaganda. So, an impressive cavalry is coming to aid Trump, and, if need be, will be positioned to replace him with another Koch-and-Mercer-approved candidate. I know we who oppose the right are the majority, but aren't authoritarian governments always opposed by an oppressed -- and silenced - majority? #resist

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Fascism in the U.S.

When someone says that the president “dog whistled” to his white suprematist and Nazi followers, meaning that his racist or Nazi references went above the head of regular people, I am often surprised, because I get them. Like when Breitbart megadonor Robert Mercer called Steve Bannon “the Leni Riefenstahl of our movement.” Some are in-jokes, like “100 percent” (for “100 percent white”), but others are direct references to Nazi history (Bannon spouts the same bullshit esoterica that Hitler’s “intellectuals” did). But they are usually obvious: saying the “sex” in employment nondiscrimination doesn’t include gays, attacking transgender service people, dramatically stepping up deportations, and today, trying to end affirmative action and limit immigration to those “who speak English.” How many Muslims does 45 have to beat up (the Gold Star family, mayor of London, travel ban victims), how many encroachments must we endure before we all acknowledge that our president is actively seeking a fascist white supremacist agenda?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Three poems in Eoagh

I am delighted to have THREE POEMS IN EOAGH. Thanks to editor/publisher Trace Peterson!

Clad, Clawed, Clandestine Eagly Pig
Lie as
eyes lie, I.
Delineating it,
disentangling inclines
in lies; incidentals cast a delicate sign.
Cling in line, eyeing diligent penalties, laws, claws: it’s eyes in lies.      
Anteceding id, laws distancing I, clasping ties, inspecting id, an eye, a lie; all ID, and stenciled, penciled eyes.
Anna Karenina
Oh, Merezhkovsky, she was a mare
too good for her rider; a man bare
of fine temperament, riding her hard,
playing her roughly, like a cheat’s card,
leaving her broken.
Vronsky, sad: beauty was given you, cad.
And you lived like a man only because of her,
you, a creature dead in soul, and she, you cur,
destroyed, no longer fit to ride:
You might have loved her still, your bridle bride.
Raze, or craze (he, her):
Says he? Misogyny
is craze (he) makin’
yours for the takin’
or not to put up with
mop or sop up with.
Deter-gent. She-esh.
Larissa Shmailo is a poet, translator, novelist, editor, and critic. Larissa’s poetry collections are Medusa’s Country#specialcharactersIn ParanA Cure for Suicide, and Fib Sequence. Her poetry CDs are The No-Net World and Exorcism and her new novel is Patient Women. Larissa’s work appears in Measure for Measure (Everyman’s Library/Penguin Random House), Words for the Wedding (Perigee/Penguin Putnam), Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive Press), PlumeFulcrumJournal of Poetic ResearchJacketJacket2, and others journals. Larissa translated Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s celebrated reconstruction of the first Futurist opera; the text has been used for productions at Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Smithsonian, and the Garage Museum of Moscow. Larissa also edited the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and has also been a translator on the Russian Bible for the American Bible Society

Monday, July 31, 2017

AWP 2018 Panel "Semiformal" Accepted!!!!

Delighted to announce that my proposal, "Semiformal: Hybrid Formal Poetry and Free Verse" has been accepted as a panel at the 2018 Association of Writers and Writers Programs Conference in Tampa. Panelists are Timothy Liu, Marc Vincenz, Dean Kostos, Elizabeth Hodges and yours truly.

Here is our program:
Between the polarities of free and formal verse is a spectrum of hybrid poetry that utilizes the  treasures of both: inventiveness, innovative structures, rhyme and rhythm. This panel will present and analyze such hybrid poems, classic and contemporary, including work by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Patricia Smith, and Claudia Rankine. We will "out" free verse poets in their use of formal elements, discovering their metric codes, and discuss the impact of free verse on the evolution of form.

Hope to see you in Tampa!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Trump and his strongman friends

Donald Trump has no interest in being president; he wants to be dictator. His favorite leaders are Putin, Duterte, Erdogan - he even called Kim Jong Un a "smart cookie" for killing his uncle. He is addicted to public acclaim and to belittling people. Do you really think he will give up power legally, peaceably? Don't you think Bannon has planned the coup already? Putin will happily pay for it. #neverTrump

While you are watching the Mooch . . .

While you are watching the Mooch, Trump is crippling, or trying to cripple, his opposition; gays now have to fight new job discrimination, transgenders to stay in the armed forces, Muslims to travel, Latinos to fight deportation of their families. Trump and Bannon will keep us all busy so that we can't resist. And we won't get any news because we'll all be watching the Mooch. 
People don't get it. The White House doesn't care about White House things, health care, etc. They give the appearance of disorder, but when it comes to power grabbing, they are 100 percent organized. They are lining up the most reactionary cops and military, inciting race hatred, and are positioned to deport any of us in a moment. THEY ARE VERY ORGANIZED

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Blow-by-Blow: My Beating as a Psychiatric Patient at Mount Sinai Hospital

Thanks to Jonathan Penton and Unlikely Stories Mark V for publishing this piece..

 2014, October, close to Halloween: A brain-shaking blow to my left-temple, then one to my right.

It was a bad episode, unexpected; I hadn’t been in a hospital for bipolar disorder since 1997. The last thing I remember before coming to at Mount Sinai was lying on my belly on the floor of my bedroom, surrounded by five cops, enormous from my vantage point. They talked among themselves and on their radios, ignoring me. Finally, they cuffed me behind my back; I begged them to tell me what I had done, but I was not worth a word.

I don’t remember my first two days at Mount Sinai; when I did come to, they were giving me Haldol, which gave me horrible dyskinesia, an unbearable restlessness in the legs, arms, and mouth. I did not realize that the incorrect medication was the cause of my discomfort; I thought this was part of my episode, and didn’t tell the doctors as they rushed by, trying to avoid the patients.

How did I get into the empty room with the orderly?

It was night. He led me into the room. He told me to sit down on the bed. He then drew his arm back and gave me two powerful, calculated blows with the palm of his hand against my temples, first left, then right. Something practiced about the beating, as though he knew this would leave no marks, only unconsciousness or concussion. I remained conscious. I saw a thick jagged scar on the length of his arm, from inches below his armpit to inches below the elbow crease, stitched broadly.

“Lie down,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” I quietly replied. He left, and I lay my head on a bare pillow, and wished, willed myself to die.

I would see the orderly often on the ward. I had no clothing and the hospital uniform stretched in embarrassing gaps across my obese form. And the Haldol was causing horrible twitching, a torture of restless limbs. Could I have imagined the beating? No.

I approached a nurse to ask his name. Before I could say a word, she exclaimed, “You are not the same person that came in! You were horrible.”

This is your fault, the staff seemed to say; not sick, murmured the walls, bad. What was his name? I was afraid to ask.

He took my blood pressure, even gave me meds. “You were horrible, inhuman, bad,” his co-workers said. Yes, people like you should be beaten, thrown to the floor, cuffed. We are saints who love the damaged like you.

Indeed, I was subhuman in my uniform and with my twitching limbs. I did something to the orderly, that was it! I finally got the courage to ask him.

“You spilt on my shirt.”


Emboldened, I asked him about the scar. He laughed wildly and said he was crazy when young. From Queens or Qatar? What planet do such men come from?

A few days later on the ward, a senior psychiatrist who knew I was a writer asked me to speak to her students about Otto Kernberg’s borderline personality diagnosis, ordinarily a favorite subject of mine. “They don’t know,” she said, pointing to the residents.

I haltingly tried to describe Kernberg’s theory of introjects in the borderline personality, cornerstone of that useless and damning label; all the “borderline” needs to do is to treat her addictions, food, drugs, sex, codependence, and the “instability” and “psychotic episodes” disappear. But I was too conscious of my ill-fitting uniform, and mumbled an excuse; the residents were deprived of their show, the patient who has read psychology.

When I was released, I related the events surrounding my beating to two therapists at the Karen Horney Clinic, later, to two residents at Payne Whitney. They stared into space, smiled, changed the subject. Because I am mentally ill, I don’t have perceptions, sensations, memories. More, their silence seemed to say, because I am mentally ill I can be abused, beaten with impunity, and my caregivers don’t have to care. I must have medication and this treatment is paid for by my insurance, so I let it go. But it comes back, often.

I have tried to forget this episode, go along with the clinicians who ignore a patient being beaten, and cannot. Fat and mentally ill, I have evoked new heights of condescension from mental health workers who find it easier to talk of mechanics, medication up or down, calories to consume. Meanwhile, Long Scar and his ilk continue to offer their “treatments” in mental hospitals everywhere. Some have said, and will continue to say, that people like me had it coming. All I can do is breathe, rest, and speak my truth until someone listens.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"I am not your insect" prose poem in The Bug Book anthology

I am very pleased that my poem, "I am not your insect," appears in the new creepy-crawly anthology, The Bug Book (Poets Wear Prada). Thanks to editor/publisher Roxanne Hoffman.

I am not your insect

Your underfoot, your exterminated, your bug. My unabashedly hairy legs, whose gymnopédies twitch like a chorus for a fatal Sharon Stone, delight in ces mouvements qui déplace les lignes, in the motion, the quiver, the mort, the catch. Mother Kali, you have made me what I am: feminine, brilliant, entirely without fear. Like my mother, I watch and pray for  prey—that it be there, that it give gore, that I feel it die, that there be more.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Poem in Lorca anthology Verde que te quiero verde

Delighted that the second edition of Verde que te quiero verde: Poems after Federico Garcia Lorca is now out with my poem, "To the Thanatos Within Me," in it! (text below). Thanks to the editors!
Dear friend of ferment,
who unearths the worms
that enrich this blissful human soil,
promising the end of eternal roil:
I embrace you, dear shadow,
my revelatory friend;
dear suicidal impulse; today
I dream of the parapets above
A la Vielle Russie, and
of splattering near the Plaza
where Woody Allen wooed young girls,
leaving a bit of me
on the Strand Bookstand,
near the park and the seals—
but this is too vibrant and real.
Better to find myself alone
in a porcelain tub
with chamomile bath oil . . .
(as if I needed to be calm;
there is eternity for that),
listening to Verdi’s Requiem,
holding a razor, or better still,
to poison myself with small
scored pills, avoiding arsenic
and the Bovary traps
of indigestion, detection;
best with caplets, red carafes
of wine or Guinness brew —
(who wouldn’t want to quaff a few?)
What catharsis there is in the dive,
the gesture, the infinite jest,
the slash, the brush (its own fire),
the dance with death?
Ah, this: as I flirt, you draw near,
chingon to my chingada
bite my ear, stop my breath—
who else could do that?
Te quiero, my Mescal, my absinthe,
my blue cyanosing corps, my Mayakovsky,
my you …
Was this a mistake? Is it too late… ?
You bite my ear, take up my rear, whisper:

Monday, July 03, 2017

Dear Steve Bannon

Dear Steve Bannon:
Thank you so much for your letter. It is a comfort to know that President Trump is saving the white Christian orphans from Hillary Clinton's cannibalism. And thank you for Mr. Hitler's book. My daughter says it is poorly written, but she has become a real liberal elite since she came back from college. We look forward to reading Mr. Hitler's ideas about health care. And don't worry about the Jews: we understand that you have to deal with the Muslims first, so we will be patient. Oh, it is so good to finally have a president who is "one of us." MAGA and God bless parts of America!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review in The Lit Pub of Medusa's Country

Medusa's Country by Larissa Shmailo

Medusa peels herself from the pages of mythology to become a denizen of New York City’s margins. There, she waltzes with Thanatos: “The dance with death? / Ah, this: as I flirt, you draw near.” When Eros shows up, he lures Medusa on a peregrination toward a broken self: “My naked heart unrobes, undressed of anguished cries.”
Shmailo adds, “Larissa’s rose is sick and is consuming me.” This alludes to William Blake’s poem “The Sick Rose,” pertaining to self-destructive sexuality. While beautiful, the rose has become infected by a worm. Addressing herself in an epistolary moment, Shmailo states, “Dear Friend of ferment / who unearths worms // that enrich this blissful human soil.”
Here lies one of many moments of transformation. The poet, though brutally honest about her bouts with mental illness, mania, and deleterious behaviors, also acknowledges the alchemy available by casting pain into language. Purged, the expectation for starting anew enriches this “human soil,” fecund with possibility and, surprisingly, hope. Here is one of the many strengths of this collection of poems—it is relentlessly honest and (therefore) resilient.
These qualities guide the poet’s exploration. Along the way, the gorgon assumes other personae, including a prostitute named Nora, a reluctant villain, not unlike Medusa herself. Once, one of Athena’s priestesses, she was raped by Poseidon. Instead of being seen as the victim, Medusa was held responsible by Athena, who turned the gorgon’s curls into snakes (Blake’s worm?) and made all who gazed upon her turn to stone. Medusa was ostracized by her own power. Shmailo avers, “His eyes transfixed by my serpents / that hardened, froze, and pleased.” Indeed, misogyny has—from antiquity to Ibsen’s era to the present—castigated women who dared to exhibit intelligence and power. Many of these poems lead the reader through histories of misogyny and sexual abuse (as in the myth itself). In a poem titled “Rapes,” Shmailo confesses:
I abandoned myself to invisible hands,
the known vice and the strong vise of my nerves and my glands.
I half-screwed and cat-moaned and imagined your stare
in the stranger, his knife slowly teasing my hair.
She unpacks her poet’s suitcase of prosody and nuanced rhymes, knowing that a poem is not only about a given topic, but also about the agency of language itself. Like a stab, she writes, “The rapist called me fat.” Again, the victim, not the perpetrator, is rebuked. Nonetheless, these poems ultimately serve a triumphant voice—a brave and audacious “I.” Convinced of her prowess, this Medusa stares into her own mirror, where she confronts distorted notions of normalcy: “You, my reflection, in pain,” and, “We live in parts.”
Despite landing on a psychiatric ward, she frees herself with sardonic wit and blade-sharp language: “Bellevue, Bellevue, where nurses’ crazy laughter / rings through the night.” The writing is so visceral, the reader feels trapped in the “locked ward,” along with the author. One can hear the howls and smell the disinfectants.
However, with verve, with chutzpah, with urgency, Shmailo’s poems become spells, freeing her, transforming stone into flesh:
I spent my whole life seeking it,
wrecking, reeking, eking it,
in hydra-headed phalluses;
in aliases & pal-louses;
in papapapapaMedusas;
in mirrors & seducers.
Ultimately, she magicks death into an affirmation of life: “I love love’s desert and its snow.” Indeed, she has led us from one extreme terrain to another—and back to the silence of the page, where we marvel at her hard-won wholeness. As we read this book, it becomes our own.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Awakening

My Awakened White Self: Trump supporters hate Obama because he is black.
My Naive White Self: Yes, some, but others are just disenfranchised workers voting against their interests.
MAWS: Trump supporters hate Obama because he is successful and black.
MNWS: That's impossible! A third of the electorate?
MAWS: Wall, Mexican judge, birth certificate, travel ban - they hear it and like it.
MNWS: But . . . .
MAWS: Larissa, grow up. We have a big fight ahead.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Happy Bloomsday! Lotus Eaters Erasure


past Nichols' the undertaker's. Eleven, daresay.
Sent his right hand with slow grace over his hair:
Where was the chap I saw in that picture somewhere?
Ah, in the dead sea, floating on his back;
It's a law like that. Curriculum. Crack.
It's the force of gravity of the earth is the weight.
Per second, per second. Post office. Too late.
Eleven, is it? I only heard it last night.
What's wrong with him? Dead. And, he filled up, all right.
Chloroform. Laudanum. Sleeping draughts. Phlegm.
Better leave him the paper and get shut of him.

*Lines in this found poem are taken in order between erasures from “The Lotus Eaters” episode of Ulysses by James Joyce.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Most Insidious Trump Tactic

The most insidious tactic of the Trump presidency is the message to us, the vast majority of Americans who are against him, is that we can do nothing to depose him. It is true that we have seen the Teflon Don survive innumerable scandals, that executive secrecy, doublespeak, and attacks on the media hamper freedom of information, and that Trump's autocratic threats are intimidating. And the craven Republican response to all this does not help. But remember: We are the majority. We have powerful leaders and allies. And we are informed and motivated. Let's keep sharing information, support one another, and work toward defeating the Republican majorities in the midterms in 2018 to impeach and convict Trump.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Abortion Hallucination" to Appear in Anthology

I  am proud to announce that my poem, "Abortion Hallucination," will appear in the anthology, Choice Words: Poems about Abortion edited by Annie Finch. Keep abortion safe and legal for all women!


Special Prosecutor Mueller has hired a specialist to review Trump orbit financials and an expert in obstruction of justice prosecution; Jared Kushner will appear before the Senate Intelligence committee June 23rd; committees in the House and Senate are calling for tapes and for Jeff Sessions to testify. Mike Flynn has handed over 600 pages of documents, and if he gets the immunity he wants, well, there will be a story to tell. Forgive my schadenfreude, friends, but I am really going to enjoy watching Trumpworld unravel.

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