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.

Saturday, May 26, 2018



On Authoritarianism

I am the daughter of a family persecuted by Stalin and interred in concentration camps by Hitler. But most Americans know nothing of these things and do not heed the warning signs of authoritarianism all around them. First, it lies and erodes freedom, and then - quite suddenly - starts to arrest the opposition: intellectuals, minorities, disabled people, the press. Just by way of saying, fight now while you can.

Monday, May 14, 2018


edited by Dorothy Friedman August.
Sunday May 20 2:30 - 5 pm 

Bowery Poetry Club
308 Bowery

Readers and contributors include: Anne Waldman, John Godfrey, Stephen Paul Miller, David Lehman, Vincent Katz, Mark Statman, Charles Bernstein, Ann Lauterbach, Ron Kolm, Bruce Andrews, Sharon Mesmer, Tom Savage, Barbara Henning, Michael Malinowitz, Max Blagg, Colette Inez, Gary Azon, Shalom Neuman, George Wallace, Jill Hoffman, Don Yorty Larissa Shmailo, Jerome Sala, Neddi Heller, Anthony Haden-Guest, Anton Yakovlev, Carol Wierzbicki, Amy Barone and others. 

$5 Contribution


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Will be presenting at the 50th ASEEES Conference

I am thrilled that our panel "Contemporary Russian Poetry in Search of a Global Poetics" has been accepted for the 50th ASEEES (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies) Conference this December. I will be speaking on the experimental poetry of Alexander Skidan. My co-panelists are Eugene Ostashevsky, Evgeny Pavlov, Olga Sokolova, and Vladimir Feshchenko. So honored!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poems for Earth Day

Look up, the water is rising again; the ocher ocean
is warmer today. The sea mists rise, form grey clouds
named Harvey and Irma and Jose and they reign,

mad royalty, over earth. Hush: The brown waters
rush into tributaries, to rivers, to the troubled chopped 
sea, where carbons heat the surface of salt; one degree,

and it rises hotter, wetter, wilder, whipping waves
of wind, winding toward us, a Kitty, Leo, Marie; a child,
looking at the sea, will die today, Noah, alee.

Plate Histrionics
He throws a gold-lamé wedding-set saucer
at me, and spits, “There is no
 global warm-ing.”

Today, Irma evacuates Sarasota as b-
rother Harvey peers and jeers, Ozymandiu-
s-like, Houston and Florida, look upon me.

A-s th-ese li-nes are bro-ken, so the dream-
s of cities, and those hamlets and towns a-
way where we settled to breathe, hear our-
selves think.

Cat 5, there is no stronger. An
evil fidget spinner, Irma swirls out of a wet
hell, and I holler CLIMATE CHANGE.

It is the
Wedgewood gravy boat, h-
e throws that next, jjjjjjjust before she

A Sonnet Affected by Climate Change

The Earth is mud and shale gas, molten magma, metamorphic—
Oh Sis, Oh Bro—and igneous, blast changing in its last tic,
with a heady burst of ozone, all zones, a corpse that ends in water.
Without us, climate will survive, change fast, outlast—Oh Daughter:
The equatorial world endures, we fall, all bone, all copses sick. 

Paleoclimatology predicts our fate.
Put the conundrum on another generation’s plate?
No, it’s now: in Africa, desertification scorches,
torches farmland. (HUNGER!!!!)
And the people learn of a Great Satan, a nation
that throws away food. Do you see
that they will fight because they must?
Whom will they trust? What is terror after you’ve
watched your child die in the land’s rust?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

An Attack on Justice?

As of today, Mitch McConnell will not permit legislation protecting the Mueller investigation to go forward. House Republicans are demanding former FBI Director James Comey's unredacted memos from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein (evidence in a live investigation); Rosenstein's refusal may be cause for Trump firing him and installing someone who will fire or limit Mueller. In New York, the temporary Attorney General is recused from the Michael Cohen case and his term is up May 3; Trump may install someone who will impede the Cohen trial. The groundwork is being laid for a multilateral attack on justice; contact your legislators before the fix comes in.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Poetry Productive: Write to Publish

Poetry Productive: Writing to Publish 
Eight sessions:
Tuesdays 5:30 – 7:30 pm 
June 5, 12, 19, 26
July 10, 17, 24, 31
No class Independence holiday week.
Class Description: Our focus in this workshop will be on writing to publish in journals, for chapbooks, or toward full-length manuscripts. Instructor Larissa Shmailo will share formal and experimental poetic techniques to add to your repertoire and help edit your poems. We will write in-class to evocative prompts and maintain a supportive atmosphere to encourage creative risk. Each class will include a discussion of where to publish your poems/books. 

Location: Safe and comfortable home environment in accessible elevator and doorman building, near numerous bus and train lines.

Instructor: Larissa Shmailo is an award-winning poet, novelist, editor, translator, and critic. Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country,#specialcharacters, In Paran, the chapbook A Cure for Suicide, and the e-book Fib Sequence; her latest novel is Patient Women. Shmailo’s work has appeared in Plume, the Brooklyn Rail, Fulcrum, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, the Journal of Poetics Research, Drunken Boat, Barrow Street, and the anthologies Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters, Words for the Wedding, Contemporary Russian Poetry, Resist Much/Obey Little: Poems for the Inaugural, Verde que te quiero verde: Poems after Garcia Lorca, and many others. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the world's first performance piece, Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych. Shmailo also edited the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and has been a translator on the Russian Bible for the American Bible Society. Please see more about Shmailo at her website at www.larissashmailo.com and Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larissa_Shmailo.

Call 212-712-9865 to register or for more information.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

NYPL Reading - Shmailo and Kostos 3/24

"Larissa Shmailo, in Medusa's Country, and Dean Kostos, in Pierced by Night-Colored Threads, engage in the dance of Eros and Thanatos. Jung and his archetypes populate the terrain of metaphor, loss, and regret. These brave poems risk articulating what society tends to silence. However, as Pluto is the ruler of the underworld, his name also means "The Rich One." Hence, there is richness to be found in exploring the dark and painful recesses of the unconscious."




Monday, February 26, 2018


I am honored to have a page at Eco-Poetry.org with three of my ecopoems: "Degree," "Plate Histrionics," and "A Sonnet Affected by Climate Change." Thanks to visionary editor Daniela Gioseffi!


Friday, February 16, 2018


The attachment of Trump supporters to a venal, self-serving, obnoxious man is not unprecedented. Trump supporters display the same psychodynamics as the cult followers of Jim Jones or David Koresh. They systematically reject any information that conflicts with their delusion of a powerful father figure who loves and protects them, even at the expense of their health and welfare. These people will support Trump even if, as he has said, he shoots someone in broad daylight, or even shoots them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Get your poetry manuscript published!

Feel like you'll never get your poetry manuscript published? Don't despair! I (an award-winning, Wikipedia-listed poet and poetry editor) will lovingly edit your work and suggest appropriate publishers for you. Call me at 212-712-9865 for a free consultation. http://larissashmailo.com/bio

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