Thursday, September 13, 2018

All-Star Women Poets Read to Benefit Women Democratic Candidates 9/29!

Sunday, September 09, 2018

So, this is living under fascism . . .

So, this is living under fascism . . . the avocados I buy are still ripe and delicious, the trees in Riverside Park still speak of the beauty of eternity, my friends still write exquisite poetry and prose. But a weight hangs over me, a sadness, a loss . . . . Today, I noticed the long tail of a rat scurrying beneath my favorite park bench, and I cannot sit there anymore. It is that loss of security, freedom, dignity, the knowledge that honesty and fair play are forever gone, that the rules will never be respected again and like the rats, outrages will continue to multiply and authoritarian rule alone will stand. And we can patch things up a bit, but life will never be the same. Is this when I, writer and poet, go to work? Yes, otherwise, what good am I?

Friday, September 07, 2018


Michael T. Young's beautiful review of MEDUSA'S COUNTRY.

Aching toward Redemption: a review of Medusa’s Country by Larissa Shmailo

Reviewed by Michael T. Young
Medusa’s Country
by Larissa Shmailo
MadHat Press 
2016, 70 pages, $14.95, ISBN: 978-1941196380
It’s been said that there are only two subjects in literature: love and death; Medusa’s Country is the battle between those primal forces. It’s no wonder that battle, and the country where it takes place, are hard given the power the eponymous figure is known for. As the poem “Schweinerei” says of the world, it is “hard, atrocious, and cruel”[i]And what makes the country of this collection especially so is that it is not fantasy, like medusa herself; but rather a steady look at the reality of our own world: a world of war, rape, suicide, where “life is real; and death the realest part” (28).
But let’s delve more carefully, because such a description may give the false impression of depressing teenage verse, and the poetry of Medusa’s Country is far from that. It is rather the poetry of experience and not of innocence. It is a collection of incredibly intelligent and subtle poetry that never loses focus of its themes. It is a poetry that aches toward redemption even as it is bogged down by histories and impulses that cannot be undone. So between the transcendent and the incarnate there is a wrestling for justice.
After torture and rape a child dies, finally;
The suffering of innocents, God’s gaping sore.
Still I pray daily, but I’m mad, you see. (31)
The reach toward love, toward what transcends the pain and suffering of the world, results in an embodiment. That embodiment becomes a confinement, a trap, and thus a kind of failure. As Joseph Brodsky once said, “In poetry, as anywhere else, spiritual superiority is always disputed at the physical level”[ii]. Shmailo’s poems rage at the center of that dispute and thus the governing metaphors tend toward the claustrophobic and crippled.
Your empty heart can’t know love’s blood at all.
You’ll be my heart, a numb, reflexive pleasure
to beat, half-heart, and never know full flexure. (21)
Family history
is largely hysterical mystery.
This old cold sold blow hold on me
is moldy genealogy. (12)
In that “love’s blood,” in that “reflexive pleasure,” that “moldy genealogy,” is a determinism that belies all effort to a transcendent love. And this makes that desire so painfully felt. I’m reminded, at times, of the aridity and emptiness that St. John of the Cross explores in Dark Night of the Soul. Shmailo, in longing to transcend the pain of the world, embraces a totality that inverts ordinary terms:
I love love’s desert and its snow.
I, Shmailo, dervish, a lover signed. (51)
Or as in the first footnote to “Between Eclipses” says, “It is not the grace of salvation you await, but the grace of no salvation” (10).
At the end of the second section, the spiritual dispute surfaces as an aching for an end to the boundaries of the self. And this is where death and love seem to become almost indistinguishable. In the final section of a poem called “War,” we read
Maybe as the last breath—will we know it as last?—as the last
breath goes, we—will we know any we?—we might feel another’s
dying breath that we might know someone else’s as we know our own
death. (38)
In Eastern philosophy and on the subatomic level in science, the boundaries that separate us become tenuous. So, the final section, in the wake of this poem, enters realms of quantum physics and Hinduism.
I’m the field of every being;
parts of me are parts of you. (47)
This is me, it cries, this is me and I die.
We will all speak these words in this way
and then, and till then, what shall I say? (55)
The final section from which these poems come is the collection’s supreme effort toward redemption. But love must ever return to its embodiment and, therefore, a kind of entrapment. Transcendence is not permanent but only part of a cycle.
I will make love to you between rebirths
with penis and womb, with land and sea,
with wind and sun and death. (49)
Buried within that sentence loaded with polysyndeton is the phrase, “I will make love to you . . . with. . . death.” If an orgasm is “le petite mort” one gets the sense from this collection that death is a “grande orgasme,” and the cycle of rebirth returns us to the desires of a body that can’t shake its history or primordial urges. As the collection concludes with the poem that gives the collection its name:
The water will dry and will leave only dust;
I will feel no prick when it does.
The serpentine grass will cover my love
And green growth enshroud what was.
But once a man stood like a statue
Before my cave of trees
His eyes transfixed by my serpents
That hardened, froze, and pleased. (56)
Apart from that return to dust and resolving into bitter memory, it’s important to note the innuendo that plays through the lines, for Shmailo’s poetry is abundant with linguistic wit and wordplay. As here, “I will feel no prick as it does” simultaneously means “prick” as a penis and “prick” as a pang of grief or anguish. And that is equally part of the hardness learned by a hard life. It is forgiveness learned through pain, as in the poem “Rape,” where a footnote tells us:
“Through the ability to understand how little you cared, I grew strong. I forgave and forgot you, like used toilet paper, flushed” (29).
Sexual love and transcendent love become indistinguishable and so transcendence slips away and the harshness of the world crowds in. We are left with terrible longing. But also the beauty of the language, a beauty that has the power to transform the tragic into song.
One of my personal favorite poems in the collection is “Live, Not Die; Live Not, Die.” It’s a marvelous variation on that unwieldy form, the sestina. But more than this, it is a poem of both linguistic and ideational play that is dreadfully serious. Springing off of Hamletand his ponderous question of existence, it goes on to weave in relevant references to Eliot and Marvell, and, of course, questions of love. The poem exemplifies the intelligence that pervades the collection in double-entendres, in deep engagements with literary figures like Nabokov, Tolstoy, or Lermontov, or in pressing literary forms into a painful service as when a limerick is used to talk about a crematorium in a death camp.
It’s important to remember that medusa was once beautiful and was changed into a hideous creature by failing to keep her vows as a priestess of Athena. The pain and suffering traced through Medusa’s Countryare like a series of betrayals that results in a similar curse. The beauty that is written into the language, and painted into the cover art, are undeniable. But the world will not let beauty go untouched. It forces the hard choices, rendering them as compulsions of survival and so torturing the beautiful into the hideous.
In the movement of poems from formal to free verse and back, there is a push against restraints both in theme and form. So Shmailo’s “Cardiac Ghazal” is written in iambic hexameter rather than the more common pentameter and her villanelle “Apostasy” resists any definite meter when scanned and yet the muscular character of the words and rhythms works well with the outrage of confronting the injustice of children raped and driven to suicide.
If I find a disappointment anywhere in the book, it is only in the few moments of failed editing or formatting which falls on the publisher’s shoulders. So, there is a comma or period out of place on occasion and the opening comments by Steve Dalachinsky misquotes one of the poems in a significant way. But these are not, as I say, errors that are to be lain at the poet’s feet. No, in fact, if anything is to be lain at Shmailo’s feet it is the laurel of antiquity in recognition of her mastery as a poet.
[i]Larissa Shmailo, Medusa’s Country(Asheville: MadHat Press, 2017), 34.
[ii]Joseph Brodsky, Less Than One: Selected Essays(New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986), 133.
About the Reviewer: Michael T. Young‘s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was published by Terrapin Books. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint (Finishing Line Press), received the 2014 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award from the New England Poetry Club.  His other collections include The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost (Poets Wear Prada), Transcriptions of Daylight (Rattapallax Press), and Because the Wind Has Questions (Somers Rocks Press).  He received a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Chaffin Poetry Award.  His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous print and online journals including The Cimarron ReviewThe Cortland ReviewEdison Literary Review, Lunch Ticket, The Potomac Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.  His work is also in the anthologies Phoenix Rising, Chance of a Ghost, In the Black/In the Red, and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems.  He lives with his wife and children in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

All-Star Women Poets Read to Benefit Democratic Women Candidates

For immediate release
Contact: Larissa Shmailo 

Women poets read in support of Democrat women candidates

Cornelia Street Café
29 Cornelia off Bleecker
Greenwich Village, NYC
Saturday, September 29, 6:00 – 7:15 pm
$20 cover / $10 minimum

New York City — On September 29, as part of the global 100 Thousand Poets for Change initiative, seven leading New York City women poets will read to benefit the Democratic National Committee’s ( midterm election efforts. Proceeds will be earmarked for the campaigns of progressive women candidates and candidates in battleground states.
All-Star Women Poets Read will feature Lee Ann Brown (In the Laurels, Caught; Polyverse); Elaine Equi (Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems; Sentences and Rain); Rachel Hadas (“The Golden Road”; The Iphigenia Plays of Euripides - New Verse Translations); Patricia Spears Jones (A Lucent Fire: New & Selected Poems; Painkiller); Trace Peterson  (Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics; Collected Poems of Gil Ott); and Larissa Shmailo (Patient Women, Medusa’s Country), led by mistress of ceremonies Maggie Balistreri (The Evasion-English Dictionary Expanded Edition; A Balistreri Collection: abc poems).
All-Star Women Poets Read will celebrate the growing role of women in political leadership today and send a message of #neverTrump to Republican anti-women agendas.  Voter registration information and volunteer opportunities to help Democratic midterm candidates will be distributed at the reading and a special message of support from district Congressman Jerrold Nadler will be read.
All-Star Women Poets Read is part of the eighth annual global event, 100 Thousand Poets for Change (100TPC), a nonprofit, grassroots organization which brings communities together for sustainability and peace. This year’s events involve nearly 2,000 individuals and organizations and include a special initiative among families and in classrooms, “Read a Poem to a Child,” to highlight the importance and vulnerability of children.       
All poems read at All-Star Women Poets Read and 100TPC will be archived at Stanford University.
For more information, contact Larissa Shmailo (All-Star Women Poets Read) at 212-712-9865 or Michael Rothenberg (100TPC) at 305-753-4569.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Senator John McCain 1936-2018

I was horrified at John McCain's bombing of the North Vietnamese people, but moved by how he stayed with his fellow captives for five years at the Hanoi Hilton, even when he was offered immediate release; I loathed his support of the NRA, but admired how he defended Obama as a good and decent man when one of his supporters called him an "Arab I don't trust"; I hated his support of Trump's tax giveaway, but honored his single-handed refusal to destroy ACA. In the time of Republican toadyism, I loved McCain's bipartisanship and the way he called Trump out on his bullshit. I would never have voted for him, but deeply grieve this honorable man. May the kingdom of heaven be his.

Monday, August 13, 2018


My second novel, Sly Bang, will be published by Spuyten Duyvil in 2018-19! Thanks to publisher Tod Thilleman!

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

My sister Tamara

Today would have been my sister Tamara's 70th birthday, had she lived. Five years have passed swiftly since the untimely death of my sibling, who supported me creatively, and, when I needed it, financially - the reason I called her "Theo," as Vincent van Gogh called his benefactor-brother.
This poem of mine was her favorite. Thanks, Theo!
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?

Thursday, August 02, 2018


Today is the last day to enter the Goodreads book giveaway to win a free copy of MEDUSA'S COUNTRY, poetry with a kick! Final hours - enter today!


Wednesday, August 01, 2018


Spectacular news! Two AWP proposals I am participating in have been accepted for the 2019 Portland Conference! So thrilled to be moderating "Hybrid Sex Writing: What's Your Position?" with panelists Cecilia Tan, Thaddeus RutkowskiJonathan Penton, and extra-amazing special guest Erica Jong!!!!! I am also event organizer and panelist for "The Critical Creative: The Editor-Poet" with our brilliant moderator Marc Vincenz and wonderful panelists Amy King, Kwame Dawes, and Michael Anania! What incredible colleagues and what great panels! Looking forward to a brilliant literary spring in 2019!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Book giveaway - 3 days left

Win a free copy of MEDUSA'S COUNTRY, "a new book of searingly intelligent poems from a uniquely eloquent poet." Three days left!


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Goodreads Giveaway - Win a Copy of MEDUSA'S COUNTRY

This week only, enter the Goodreads Giveaway to win a free copy of MEDUSA'S COUNTRY, a poetry collection that says #metoo with a kick!  Time and number of copies are limited, so enter today!


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Baudelaire, “Beauty,” from Fleurs du Mal

I am beautiful, o mortals, like a dream of stone,
And my breast, where each one has in his turn shattered,
Is made to inspire in poets a love
As mute and eternal and silent as matter.
I reign in the azure like a sphinx out of mind;
I unite a heart of stone to the whiteness of swans;
I hate the movement that displaces the lines,
And never do I laugh and never do I cry.
Poets, before my grand attitudes,
Which I seem to assume from the proudest statues,
Consume their days in austere études,
For I have, to fascinate these docile amants,
Pure mirrors which beautify everything they see:
My eyes, my great eyes, of eternal clarity.
Tr. L. Shmailo

La Beauté
Je suis belle, ô mortels! comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s'est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matière.
Je trône dans l'azur comme un sphinx incompris;
J'unis un coeur de neige à la blancheur des cygnes;
Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes,
Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.
Les poètes, devant mes grandes attitudes,
Que j'ai l'air d'emprunter aux plus fiers monuments,
Consumeront leurs jours en d'austères études;
Car j'ai, pour fasciner ces dociles amants,
De purs miroirs qui font toutes choses plus belles:
Mes yeux, mes larges yeux aux clartés éternelles!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Happy birthday, Vladimir Mayakovsky!

On the day of his death, Vladimir Mayakovsky visited his tailor, wrote this poem, played Russian roulette, and lost. Happy birthday, Vladimir Vladimirovich - we celebrate your life.
It's after one. You've likely gone to sleep.
The Milkway streams silver, an Oka through the night.
I don't hurry, I don't need to wake you
Or bother you with lightning telegrams.
Like they say, the incident is cloved.
Love's little boat has crashed on daily life.
We're even, you and I. No need to account
For mutual sorrows, mutual pains and wrongs.
Look: How quiet the world is.
Night cloaks the sky with the tribute of the stars.
At times like these, you can rise, stand, and speak
To history, eternity, and all creation.
Translated L. Shmailo

Monday, July 16, 2018


Delighted that the Poetry School is using Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry,  the

 anthology of ultra-contemporary Russian verse I edited, as the basis of their course, 

Transreading Russia.

‘We are Russian and we have extra genes for compassion and asking unanswerable questions,’ writes Larissa Shmailo, editor of Twenty-First Century Russian Poetry. This online anthology of 50 poets in English translation becomes our essential reading in the course that invites us to look at present-day Russia through its poetry, beyond the looming news of Putinism. We will write our own poems in response to the ‘accursed questions’ posed by contemporary Russian poets about ‘the meaning of life, love, suffering, God and the devil.’ As the anthology boasts a wide range of approaches, from experimental to lyric to language poetry, we can expand our own repertoire of engaging with similar questions: by offering tentative answers or formulating new questions. To celebrate creative writing as translation and translation as creative writing, we will be joined by our special guest, Sasha Dugdale, poet and translator from Russian, who will talk to us about her work, also as the editor of the Russian and Ukrainian focus of Modern Poetry in Translation. In cooperation with the journal, we will create new poems inspired by this themed issue – the texts will be published on the MPT website as a featured project.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Contemporary Russian Poetry in Search of a Global Poetics: The Poetry of Alexander Skidan

The program for the Association of Slavic, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies Conference is now available. My panel, Contemporary Russian Poetry in Search of a Global Poetics, will take place December 9, 8:00 - 9:45 am. Chair: Vladimir V. Feshchenko; Panel: Eugene OstashevskyEvgeny Pavlov, myself; Discussant: OIga Sokolova. I will be speaking on global prosodies informing syntax and semantics in the experimental poetry of Alexander Skidan.
Contemporary Russian Poetry in Search of a Global Poetics
Sun, December 9, 8:00 to 9:45 am, Boston Marriott Copley Place, 1, Columbus II
Session Submission Type: Panel
Brief Description
The focus of the panel is on contemporary Russian poetry's conscious quest for a global poetics. Specific case studies of several key poets, both living and recently deceased, conducted in the panel contributions will raise a number of important questions, ranging from linguistic to philosophical to political ones. What does it mean to be a global Russian poet today? How do globalised poetic strategies of Russian poets compare to the Western ones? What are the antecedents of the today's poets' globalising attitudes? What are the theoretical challenges of conceptualising a global poetics in the Russian context?

Sunday, July 01, 2018

My review of Marc Vincenz's LEANING INTO THE INFINITE

I am not a fan of the unadorned vernacular in poetry, no matter how sincere its sentiment or pertinent its message. In my book, what a poet should do is invent wonderful turns of phrases, new syntax, head-turning semantics. There should be a dialectic of differences which interacts to ­­create the magical, entirely new, entirely necessary synthesis. A poet should bring brilliant LANGUAGE to the reader, by which I more nearly mean semiotics, meaningful, culturally rich, innovative signs that the reader gets to deconstruct time and time again. If you are tired of reading monosyllabic laundry list poetry, then you will be delighted by Marc Vincenz, a poet who trucks in the unpredictable and unexpected, and who conjoins words like gems for jewelry.
In Leaning into the Infinite, Vincenz displays a magical imagination that mines from three continents and a dozen cultures. The language is literate and sparkling. Look at a typical title: “When Uncle Fernando Conjures Up a Dead-Bird Theory of Everything,” where Fernando is “Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa and his many alter egos . . .  written under more than seventy heteronyms.”  Other inspirations are Li Po, Wang Wei, Kafka, Paracelsus, Heraclitus, and Robert Bly. If Auden multitasked, if cummings studied alchemy, if Borges reincarnated into a Hong Kong-born British-Swiss living in America on a green card, you might get a Marc Vincenz.
Vincenz’s Infinite is a poetry of mind, a garden of images and ideas and characters that is uncannily aware of its reader. Perhaps all good poetry has this in common, this drawing of the reader in, like an accomplice to its art. Vincenz’s poetry engages and questions, implicitly and explicitly: “How?” “Should I?” “Who?” In “Unreliable Narrator,” he asks “Should I be / stumped / by the greatness / of God . . .”
Who then is
the protagonist
when trillions
of single cells
all think
for themselves?—or together?—
The poet asks and the spare Basho–like verses —and rich longlined poems later in the collection—wait for answer. The poet’s elegant use of line breaks and sculpted white space seem to invite readers to reply, to mark Leaning into the Infinite up with all kinds of marginalia.
We have a tradition in the European canon of the philosopher-poet, in which a poet offers insights into the human condition. Modern poets do so ponderously as a whole. Vincenz’s touch on this is so light and his language so original that you scarcely know you are being enlightened. His temporal range is from the nascent prehistory of cave paintings to the post-relativistic twenty-first century. His worlds are populated with extraordinary beings, including the aforementioned Uncle Fernando and his interlocutor, the oracular Sibyl. In “Uncle Fernando & Sibyl Exchange Curt Words,” Fernando asks for “that mythical moment” and the oracle replies, “Hush,”:
Carbon first.
Then light.
Sibyl, Vincenz’s untamed muse, also appears in dialogues between Prometheus and Orpheus:
Orpheus:                                             Prometheus:
The voice                                             & what
of time                                                 is that perfume—
 …                                                       . . .
within the planes                                 the word made
of being                                               Thing
…                                                        . . .
whenever I start
to try & explain it
I forget words
My favorite characters in Leaning into the Infinite include a finch singing to his mate from a tree-top which he thinks is a mountain, the Tree God Saluwaghnapani, and Milen, a Filipino wet-nurse who sings a song she “claimed drove off demons that grew within Javan / smog clouds: Ai-Li-Ma-Lu-Ma-Nu — . . . “
Leaning into the Infinite ranges from Olympus to “The Penal Colony” and is vivid and visceral:
Not from the gagged mouth—it knots & tangles in the larynx
& the chain simply groans: ‘Have done it.
Have it etched to the bone.
 It’s all in the pointed nib of the writers’ dark truth.
 In an enlightened moment the Bewildered gasps alone—
The Orwellian/Kafkaesque boot stamps:
Just                 Be                     
      good Citizen

Be                    Just
And then the poet escapes to his natal Asia:
O to be born reforested in Borneo
 where water doesn’t run off in disappointing sloughs,
 but cascades & careens within the bejeweled heart
of a single fruiting tree, where a child is a rambutan
(or the fleshy dumpling-pulp of a mangosteen)— . . .
Vincenz speaks to the childlike longing in us to have a storyteller/mentor introduce us to the world’s mysteries, to share its secrets:
If only I had a good uncle to sit me down at an uneven hearth
with a hot cup of mulled wine, a twinkle in his eye
& this background whiff of ancient pine:
To hear how the world begins green, fresh, tabula rasa:
& late at night or early morning through air still as glass,
to eavesdrop upon the grasses & their endless philosophizing.
You have this uncle in Marc Vincenz. Drink up.

Friday, June 29, 2018


The ancient military tactician Sun Tsu said in his Art of War: "When you are strong, appear weak; weak, appear strong." We have been laughing at the Trump administration, and they sprung a second Supreme Court nomination on us. No one in the leakiest of White Houses leaked a word about their campaign to install another extreme-right justice. Let's face it - net neutrality gone, world alliances shifted, two major propaganda arms installed - we've been outplayed, my friends. This is not Saturday Night Live - let's not underestimate our opponent.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"God doesn't want you to retire."

White evangelicals are the driving force behind Trump. But living in a liberal bubble, it is difficult to appreciate the insanity of their thinking, for want of a better word, and the degree to which Republican politicians manipulate them with the Bible. 
For example: Representative Greg Gianforte of Montana (the one who beat up the Guardian reporter) was talking about social security to a constituent. He asked, "How old was Noah when he died?" The constituent dutifully answered, "600." "So, God doesn't want you to retire!" retorted the Republican.
Or, Jay Sekolow (Trump's lawyer) writing about the end of days and claiming Trump to be the only hope against the Apocalypse.
Or, states like Texas asking writers of textbooks (me among them) not to mention the age of the Earth or evolution, as creationism replaces science.
The evangelical movement forgives Trump everything because they believe he is fulfilling prophecy and will bring about a theocratic state, with them in charge. Only one of the reasons I am a #neverTrump.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Trump Administration Is Thinking Long Term

The Trump administration is not as stupid as it looks. With net neutrality gone, corporations which support the government will have greater control over the Internet content you can access. In addition to Fox News, Sinclair Media, which forces local news broadcasters to air 20-minute pure propaganda segments (eg, "Obama was funded by Hamas" - I kid you not!) will soon cover 72 percent of the television market. 
Trump has effectively isolated us by leaving the Paris Accord, the Iran Deal, and the UN Human Rights commission, and has alienated us from our democratic allies to partner with the dictatorial thugs of the world. Additionally, apparently, previous Republican administrations have devised plans for mass detentions - of US citizens. Trump is looking at these.
Trump's approval rating stands at 45%. These polls precede the migrant child incarcerations, but most Trump supporters approve of them. But with a 5 percent increase in voter registration, Bernie Sanders says Democrats can take back the Senate and the House. I hope you will vote and register some friends; it may be the last opportunity you have to do so. In any event, as George Orwell said, sanity is not statistical - I will fight Trump whatever his polls say.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


I was not a mother until today.
The brand Trump is emblazoned on tents
and abandoned Walmarts. 
Nannies wear jackboots, joke as
children cry.
Secretly, at night, children are taken
to undisclosed locations across the nation.
Where are the girls? With
the Roy Moores of the world?
Hear my NO.
Listen, Space Force:
I am the Horta, fighting for my children;
I will drive you from the planet.
Attention, big game hunters:
I am a tigress, risen from extinction,
to protest, protect the little cubs.
Hey, perps:
I, ordinary woman, with my instincts intact,
the maternal rising in me like a huge blue tide,
watch me topple the Orange Ozymandius.
What you have unleashed can’t be
lied to or stopped.
I am more than me, too;
I am the children, too.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

When Poets Get Shot

Orange: the color of emergency: Trump’s Mein Kampf has successfully launched. Here come the Nazis, the pedophiles, the “benevolent white supremacists,” the wife rapists, men who like their women bruised, the gay bashers who are secret homosexuals. Yes, Nazism has always had to do with violent and non-consensual sex.
Orange prison uniforms for asylum seekers kept hungry and in cramped dirty quarters. Little babies ripped from their mothers (Reference: see Sophie’s Choice). One thousand five hundred border babies lost, no one knows where they are, probably in human trafficking (see paragraph 1).
For you and me, orange uniforms? There is no surety that says no, even if you support the Nazis. One day, a Nazi pal will turn you in as gay or part black or disloyal, and there you go to the camps, to the beautiful BASF or DOW or Monsanto chemical gas (Reference: see This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski).
Here will be the reliable cadres of orange prisoners: mentally ill people, all disabled people for that matter, gays and trans, commies (and who’s to say that you are not), latinxs, blacks, and uppity women (whom we will keep in the Frauenblock for fun). And you, if you slip up. Or if somebody wants your job. Or just for fun. Oh, and Jews, perhaps after a reprieve, but always, ultimately Jews. (Reference: See Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz).
In 1921, a poet dreaming of his wife and Addis Ababa
is brought before the firing squad and shot.
During World War II in Stalingrad, a clownish writer accused of espionage dies of starvation trying to eat his prison mattress.
Poets who died in the camps:
Anica Černej
Grażyna Chrostowska
Robert Desnos
Benjamin Fondane
Pavel Friedmann
Peter Hammerschlag
Jakob van Hoddis
Noor Inayat Khan
Max Jacob
Itzhak Katzenelson
Peter Kien
Gertrud Kolmar
Igor S. Korntayer
Henryka Łazowertówna
Yechiel Lerer
Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger
Erich Mühsam
Arno Nadel
Sarah Powell
Moriz Seeler
Augustyn Suski
David Vogel
Ilse Weber
Here in the U.S., it will be me – I will be called a Democrat and hauled to a dark site to be waterboarded, not because I have any information (I don’t), just for stupid sadistic fun. There will be a picture of Ivanka Trump on the wall and my torturers will force me to genuflect and pray to her. I mumble lines from my poetry, proud that they have burned me, proud that I have told the truth. Then come the rats . . . .

Monday, June 18, 2018

25 Tell-Tale Signs That Trump Is a Nazi

1. He has his doctor brag about his genes.
2. He mocks a reporter with ankylosing spondylitis (ableism).
3. He lies and repeats his simple, outrageous lies until, like advertising, they seem true (see Joseph Goebbels).
4. He approves of Nazis and white supremacists.
5. He cultivates Nazis and white supremacists for his base.
6. He hates immigrants.
7. He thinks African nations are “shit holes.”
8. He spoke of “my African American” on the campaign trail.
9. He calls Mexicans rapists, as Hitler called Jews.
10. His wife Ivana said he enjoyed reading Mein Kampf.
11. He enjoys the company of dictators.
12. He emulates dictators.
13. He wants to shut down the free press.
14. He calls for the arrest and imprisonment of political opponents.
15. He wants to replace the FBI and CIA with agents loyal to him (see also Stalin).
16. Members of his own party fear him.
17. Loyalty to Trump, rather than agreement on policy, is the criterion for Republican candidate election today.
18. He encourages police brutality.
19. He reduces women to objects for male use.
20. Like a true fascist, he has consolidated his alliance with business and the oligarchy through tax breaks and other financial incentives.
21. He sets up concentration camps.
22. He separates families and puts them in concentration camps.
23. He hires Nazis.
24. He wants you to “sit up and pay attention” when he speaks.
25. He will likely succeed if you do not act now (see history).

Saturday, June 16, 2018

On arguing with Nazis

Nazis are stupid. They hate facts and logical arguments. They also hate literature, the arts, and science except as it pertains to weaponry. So the good news is that we are smarter than them. The bad news is that they are unimaginably brutal. Believe them when they say they want to have slaves, arrest opponents, and shut down the press, and never for a moment think that this cannot happen here.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

My Review of BORDER CROSSINGS by Thaddeus Rutkowski

BOUNDARY ISSUES: Thaddeus Rutkowski’s Border Crossings
by Larissa Shmailo

Border Crossings
Sensitive Skin Books
ISBN  978-1977850898
Copyright 2018
96 pp.

Like a Chinese-Polish American cross between Rod Serling and Emily Dickinson, Thaddeus Rutkowski invites you to the portals of mind and matter in Border Crossings. In this first collection of poems, the fiction writer and performance artist presents carefully sculpted, deceptively simple verses of immediate interest to the reader, typically with an understated but potent twist.

Whether at the boundaries between cultures, the edges of human interiority, or the trespasses of racism, trapdoors usually closed shut are pried open in Border Crossings. “Light and Shadow,” among the poems opening the book, describes the poet’s initial conflict moving in and out of hidden places:

My father opens a trapdoor
and leads me down concrete stairs
. . .

I don’t want to stay.
Spiders scrunch in the corners,
and pieces of copper tubing—
. . .
litter the floor.

. . .

Spiders notwithstanding, the poet finds himself liking the smell of horsehair cement in the cellar and wanting to stay there. The rest of the volume’s poems proceed to traverse borders to the secret and unknown.

As Rutkowski comes to love cellars, so he comes to love spiders. The collection reveals the rurally reared poet’s childlike fascination with spiders, bees, flies, rodents, raptors, tree frogs, and other animalia of crevices and corners. There is both a love for the honest presence of nature’s smallest and a vampire’s interest in “little lives”:

I can see and hear it now,
the crazy path of flight at blinding speed,
the inevitable, the unavoidable, hitting,
when the crazy fly comes into contact
with the eye, with the bed,
buzzing around upside down,
for the crazy fly has no great sense of equilibrium.
. . .
I stand back
while a hyper bird perches on a jumbo stalk
so another can feed on the multi seeds
next to the mad mud hole.

Perhaps these innocent animals offer a kind of escape from other, more malevolent creatures. From “Party Animals”:

I throw a party
 . . .

Another guest says
he killed people
who looked like me
when he was in Vietnam.

The kindness of nature juxtaposes vividly with the descriptions of rednecks and racists literally at the poet’s door; the conjunction is reminiscent of Viktor Frankl seeing hope and life in a sparrow perched outside his Auschwitz barracks window. The violent racists cross borders in threatening trespass and are held back spiritually by the poet’s integrity and wit, with the help of small loving lives.

As a veteran performance poet and ranter, Rutkowski routinely crosses audience boundaries with épater-le-bourgeoisie material. A common edgy theme is sex, delivered with deadpan. From “Nine Rules for No Sex”:

No kissing with a cold sore.
No kissing with a sore throat.
No thoughtless pressing, rubbing or brushing.

No fingering with long nails.
No fingering with hangnails.
No foolish fingering . . . .

The motion is sometimes toward stand-up comedy, as in “
Anarchist Manifesto” ( “I believe in anarchy, / but not if everybody goes wild.”) The same wry humor obtains as the poet finds his Asian roots in food and found poems; “Found Poem, Hong Kong Museum”:

When you are finished tilling the soil,
spading seedlings, weeding, winnowing,
hulling, grinding and pounding,

you may enjoy
the silky yellow rice,
the dry sticky rice,
the rat’s tooth rice,
the little flowery waist rice,
and the yellow husk full brow rice.
The poet encourages forays into the unknown, but with realism and caveats. Despite the “disappointing” toilet facilities of foreign places, and the shock of strange invertebrate foods, Rutkowski reminds us in the poem, “Border Crossing,” that “it’s the people we want to see.” And cautions his reader:

So let’s think twice before we cross
the twenty yards of no-man’s-land.
I know you want to get there
as fast as we can.

Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, translator, editor, and critic.

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