ČERVENÁ BARVA PRESS NEWSLETTER
Gloria Mindock, Editor Issue No. 38 September, 2008
Welcome to the September 2008 Newsletter!
This month and in October, look for new full-lengths coming out.
Anthem, by CL Bledsoe, Sarasota VII, by Lo Galluccio, They're Dropping Bombs Not Ham Sandwiches, a play by Michael Nash,
Agnes of God, by Jana Morávkova Kiely, On the Platform and Letters to Saida by Denis Emorine.
This is a huge undertaking so please be patient.
I would like to thank my interns Jackie Hall and Caitlin Jackson for all their work this summer. They both worked so hard for the press!
Both are returning to college to work on graduate degrees. Jackie will continue helping the press.
I am so happy to have her continue working with me. I would also like to welcome Shannon O'Connor who will be interning with the press.
I am so grateful for all the help!
The Červená Barva Press reading series starts again this month.
On Wednesday, September 17th, readers will be Kathi Aguero, Mike Amado
and George Held, who will be coming in from New York City.
All have new chapbooks by Červená Barva Press.
We continue to have the Reading Series at the Pierre Menard Gallery, 10 Arrow St. in Cambridge.
All our readings start at 7:00. Please see our readings page for bios and more information.
The gallery always has great exhibits so please visit the gallery and while you are at it, visit Lame Duck Books next door.
Wonderful bookstore. I would like to thank John Wronoski, Nathan Consello and all the gallery staff for having us back again.
I am so psyched!
On October 15th, John Amen, editor of Pedestal Magazine in North Carolina,
will be here, Glenn Sheldon, editor of New Sins Press
and Červená Barva Press author of Bird Scarer will be here from Toledo, Ohio and Kevin Gallagher,
Cervena Barva Press author of Isolate Flecks will read. Kevin was editor of the magazine Compost.
On November 19th, local poets Irene Koronas, Robert K. Johnson
and Sue Owen will read. Both Irene and Robert will be celebrating
the release of their new chapbooks by Červená Barva Press.
I hope you will join us! A reception follows all readings with wine, cheese, and other refreshments.
I am not accepting any new manuscripts or queries for full-lengths. Do not send me anything to read.
For chapbooks, queries will be from Jan. 2-Feb. 10th, 2009.
After that, the reading period will be closed for chapbooks until the following year.
I am running a poetry and fiction chapbook contest which is accepting submissions from Nov. 1-January 31st.
Guidelines will be posted soon on the submissions page.
A classified ad will run in Poets & Writers also.
I freelance editing novels and poetry to supplement my income. It has been wonderful and I enjoy it tremendously. I have been working
with some amazing writers! Please do not send me manuscripts and ask me to critique it for you unless you can pay for my services.
Cervena Barva Press comes first. I only will edit for a fee. This helps the press survive. Sorry. If anyone is interested and is
willing to pay, then contact me.
The Cape Cod Writers Conference was wonderful. Mark Pawlak, Doug Holder and I spoke on the small press.
I cannot compliment the class enough. They were great!
The reception was wonderful overlooking the Nantucket Sound. It was a view that was just breathtaking. Everyone I met was so nice,
and it was good to see other faculty I knew. Thank you to the Director of the conference, Anne Elizabeth Tom, for asking us to be
a part of it. We all had a blast!
Congratulations to Doug Holder. His book, The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel (Cervena Barva Press, 2008), was a
July/August pick in the Small Press Review.
The Small Press Review has been so good to the press.
To all chapbook and full-length book authors: Please do not schedule readings for your books until you have seen proofs and I say it
is being printed. You don't want to have readings with no books!
The Istanbul Literary Review is celebrating 3 years!!!!! Congratulations to Etkin, Guluzar, Halime, ILR Staff, Miles and the contributors
from all over the world which makes the magazine so special. Thank you Etkin for all you have done for me. I am so honored to be a
part of this magazine with so many wonderful people.
Congratulations Guluzar, the Webmaster of the Istanbul Literary Review.
She gave birth to a new baby girl in June named Rana.
The Istanbul Literary Review is currently seeking submissions for its January issue.
Follow guidelines listed but please put submissions in the body of the e-mail instead of attachments. Miles and I answer
submissions quickly. Make sure your bio is only 2-3 lines and no longer. Photo must be in jpeg.
Send to: email@example.com
In subject line please put: Submission for January Issue, 2009
A Celebration of Somerville Small Literary Presses
An Ibbetson Street Press and Cervena Barva Press Reading
Somerville Library/Central Branch
79 Highland Avenue
Somerville, MA 02143
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Ibbetson Street Press Authors
Lisa Beatmen will read from Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor
Gloria Mindock will read from Blood Soaked Dresses
Richard Wilhelm will read from Awakenings
Červená Barva Press Authors
Mary Bonina will read from Living Proof
Doug Holder will read from The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel
Catherine Sasanov will read from Tara
Author's Short Bios
Lisa Beatman manages adult education programs in Boston's South End. Her most recent book, Manufacturing America: Poems from the Factory Floor
(Ibbetson Street Press 2008), was an April/May "Pick of the Month" by the Small Press Review, and was featured in the Boston Globe.
The lives of today's immigrant factory workers are the guts and sinew of these poems. Her work has appeared in Lonely Planet,
Lilith Magazine, Political Affairs, Hawaii Pacific Review, Rhino, Manzanita, Alimentum, European Judaism, and the Boston
Globe Magazine. Her first book was Ladies' Night at the Blue Hill Spa (Bear House Publishing 2002)."
Gloria Mindock is editor and publisher of Červená Barva Press and editor of the Istanbul Literary Review based in Turkey.
From 1984-1994, she edited the Boston Literary Review/
BLuR. She is the author of two chapbooks, Doppelganger (S. Press) and Oh Angel (U Soku Stampa) and three poetry
collections, Blood Soaked Dresses (Ibbetson St. Press, 2007), Nothing Divine Here (U Soku Stampa, 2008) and
Whiteness of Bone, forthcoming. Gloria has been published in numerous journals including UNU: Revista de Cultura and
Citadela in Romania with translations by Flavia Cosma, Arabesques, Poesia, Phoebe, Poet Lore, Blackbox, River Styx,
Bogg, Ibbetson St., WHLR, and numerous anthologies.
Richard Wilhelm holds a B.A. in journalism but currently works as a mental health counselor at McLean Hosipital.
He is a painter who has exhibited in a solo show at the Gallery at the Piano Factory and in group shows elsewhere.
He was one of the three co-editors of City of Poets, an anthology of 18 Boston Poets, and serves as the art editor of
Ibbetson Street Press. His poems have been published in, Spare Change, the Somerville News, Ibbetson Street and
Crooked River Press, which quoted one poem in full in the 2002 Poet's Market.
Mary Bonina's chapbook Living Proof was published last year by Červená Barva Press. Her poetry is included in the public art
project BOSTON CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS, in many journals, and in three anthologies, most notably, Voices of the City, a project
of the Rutgers University Center for Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience (Hanging Loose). She is author of another
poetry chapbook, Lunch in Chinatown, and the memoir, My Father's Eyes excerpted in Gulfstream and Hanging Loose. Bonina holds
an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, has been awarded fellowship residencies at the
Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and she's a member of the Writers Room of Boston,
serving on the Board of Directors.
Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass. He is the arts editor for The Somerville News,
the host of the Somerville Community Access TV show: "Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer," the co-founder of
The Somerville News Writers Festival, and the co-founder of the Somerville-based literary group the Bagel Bards.
His poetry and prose has appeared in: The Boston Globe Magazine, STUFF, Rattle, Home Planet News, Cafe Review, the
new renaissance, Poesy, Istanbul Literary Review, and many others. His new poetry collection is The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel
(Červená Barva Press). He holds an M.A. in Literature from Harvard University.
Poet Catherine Sasanov is the author of Traditions of Bread and Violence (Four Way Books) and All the Blood Tethers
(Northeastern University Press), as well as two chapbook collections: What's Left of Galgani (Franciscan University Press)
and Tara, which was released in April by Červená Barva Press. Her theater work includes the libretto for
Las Horas de Belén: A Book of Hours, commissioned by Mabou Mines. Sasanov will have a residency this fall
at Blue Mountain Center, where she hopes to finish a new book of poems, Had Slaves. The manuscript is
rooted in her discovery of slaveholding among her Missouri ancestors, and her research into what
happened to their slaves.
Ibbetson Street press was founded in 1998 in Somerville, Mass by Doug Holder, Dianne Robitaille and Richard Wilhelm.
It was named for the original location in Somerville (33 Ibbetson Street) where Holder and Robitaille resided from 1994 to 2001.
Since then it has published 23 issues of "Ibbetson Street," and over 50 collections of poetry. Ibbetson poets have been featured
on "Writer's Almanac" ( NPR), WBZ radio, Verse Daily, The Boston Globe, WGBH, Provincetown Radio ( Poets Corner), and many
other venues. Many of our collections were picks of the month in the "Small Press Review." Ibbetson titles are collected
and subscribed to by major university libraries including: Harvard University, Yale University, Brown University,
and the University of Buffalo.
Červená Barva Press was founded in April, 2005 by Gloria Mindock. The press publishes poetry and fiction chapbooks and books,
plays, and poetry postcards from writers in the USA and Internationally. It accepts work by solicitation only but welcomes
queries especially from Central and Eastern Europe. Once a year, the press holds a fiction and poetry chapbook contest and
once a month, Červená Barva Press publishes a monthly newsletter which contains interviews with writers, editors, and publishers,
author reading schedules throughout the USA, book releases, and new Červená Barva Press publications.
Another service Cervena Barva Press offers, is an online bookstore, The Lost Bookshelf.
Gloria Mindock started this for Cervena Barva Press books and for writers and publishers from
all over the world to sell their books on consignment.
Doug Holder, Editor
Ibbetson Street Press: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gloria Mindock, Editor
Červená Barva Press: email@example.com
Next month in the October newsletter,
I will be reviewing books by Pamela Laskin, Djelloul Marbrook, and a CD by Larissa Shmailo.
Many new books by various authors will be added to The Lost Bookshelf within the next few weeks.
Be sure to mark your calendars and have a look. Always hit your refresh key when visiting.
Come Join the Poets!
All Events Are Free and Open to the Public
More than 20 Poets from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere
THE SIMMONS INTERNATIONAL CHINESE POETRY FESTIVAL
OCTOBER 4-5, 2008
ZORA NEALE HURSTON LITERARY CENTER
300 THE FENWAY
BOSTON, MA 02115
Afaa M. Weaver
Dr. Michelle Yeh
POETS AS DIPLOMATS? RARE INTERNATIONAL GATHERING OF CHINESE POETS OCT. 4-5 AT SIMMONS COLLEGE
Chinese, American Poets to use Poetic Translation
as a Model for Diplomacy
BOSTON (August 22, 2008) -- In what may be one of the most unusual ways to help improve communication and relations between
modern day China and America, leading Chinese poets will travel to Simmons College in Boston Oct. 4-5 for an International
Chinese Poetry Festival, using poetic translation as a model for diplomacy during today's challenging times.
More than two dozen well-known poets from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States as well as academic scholars and translators,
will meet to explore ways to improve communications between the cultures through the exchange and translation of poetry. The festival,
which is free and open to the public, will feature discussions about the difficulty of accurately translating poems between two radically
different cultures, readings of modern and traditional Chinese poetry in English and Chinese, and an explorations of the significance of
Chinese poetry in world literature.
The gathering will also focus on women and their role in contemporary Chinese poetry.
The two-day festival will be on the Simmons College campus at 300 The Fenway, Boston in the Linda Paresky Conference Center of the
Main College Building. (For more information about the festival schedule, visit www.simmons.edu/znh.
You may also call (617) 521-2175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the poets attending are Leung Ping Kwan, Zhou Zan, Hong Hong, Marilyn Chin,
Zang Di, Zhang Er, Yi Sha, Kelly Tsai, Ye Mimi and Shinyu Pai.
The festival is founded by nationally acclaimed poet Afaa Michael Weaver, a Simmons College professor and director of
the Zora Neale Hurston Literary Center at Simmons. Weaver's new book The Plum Flower Dance includes "American Income,"
a poem that was awarded the 2008 Pushcart Prize. Proficient in Mandarin, Weaver was the first African-American poet to
teach American literature in Taiwan. The festival is co-chaired by Dr. Michelle Yeh of the University of California, Davis.
Raves to the authors with new books and other news…
Far From Algiers by Djelloul Marbrook
Winner of the Stan & Tom Wick Poetry Prize/Kent State University Press
Djelloul Marbrook 'a highly skilled outsider,' bursts into poetry with this splendid first book, which brings together the energy
of a young poet with the wisdom of long experience.
To order: www.kentstateuniversitypress.com
Promise Supermarket by Elizabeth Quinlan
Ibbetson Street Press
The magic of Promise Supermarket is to turn the power of visual imagination and memory into unforgettable stories-to 'grow treasures'
out of what was planted in the treeless ground of a difficult but tenderly remembered childhood.
-Martha Collins (editor-at-large Field Magazine)
To order: http://www.lulu.com/content/2651018
Marian K. Shapiro has been awarded the title of Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts
Visit us online at www.IndianBayPress.com for our September Poesia News for the latest news,
announcements and events concerning our publications, the San Francisco area and elsewhere such as:
- See who among the 43 poets will be bringing you the Fall issue of Poesia poetry and reviews from the Nation and France,
Spain, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand and Pakistan.
- Read about our newest release and where to get it - our first anthology, Poetry With Legs, An Anthology of Sin,
J. Edwin Whitelaw and Friends, edited by Brazilian poet, Gisela Falabela. With the late J. Edwin Whitelaw,
(1953 - 2006) as your guide, follow him through his Dantesque Inferno of the 7 deadliest sins.
- Meet Brazilian poet, Gisela Falabela in her first interview with Indian Bay Press.
- Visit with New Zealand poet Suzanne Morning in her fascinating interview about her life and poetry in Korea and her
take on our recent release of her new work, Dog Soup and Donuts.
- Read about the upcoming announcement of the Oliver W. Browning Poetry Competition winners.
- Read Sérgio Prata, our man in Brazil and his take on the Brazilian connection between
iconic lesbian poet, Elizabeth Bishop and Brazil
- Find our memorials to the passings of former San Francisco resident Gaylord Willis
and Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish.
- New releases from Cervena Barva Press, local poetry happenings in San Francisco and elsewhere, and yes more
- Our new partnership with American Book Exchange.
SUBSCRIBE AND KEEP US AND YOU IN BUSINESS!
Jason R. Mayo, Editor
Indian Bay Press
1750 Montgomery Street, 1st Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111
Poesia News is a free e-newsletter to our contributors, subscribers, friends and detractors. If you have received this
email it is because you or someone you know have supplied your address to us. To have your name removed from our email
list you only need to so advise of your desire that we do so. We will not release your name and address to third
parties for any reason, ever.
Dzvinia Orlowsky Interview
This interview is one of a series conducted by Alexander J. Motyl
with Ukrainian Literary Night writers at Cornelia Street Cafe in New York.
Reprinted with permission of The Ukrainian Weekly
Alexander J. Motyl is a writer, painter, and professor.
Motyl/Orlowsky Interview, July 2, 2008
Pushcart Prize recipient Dzvinia Orlowsky is the author of four poetry collections including her most recent, Convertible Night,
Flurry of Stones. Her first collection, A Handful of Bees, was recently reprinted as a Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary.
Dzvinia's poetry and translations have appeared in numerous anthologies, including A Map of Hope: An International Literary Anthology;
From Three Worlds: New Writing from Ukraine; and A Hundred Years of Youth: A Bilingual Anthology of 20th Century Ukrainian Poetry.
Her translation from the Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko's novella, The Enchanted Desna, was published by House between Water Press
in 2006. A founding editor of Four Way Books, she currently teaches poetry at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program in
Creative Writing of Pine Manor College.
Dzvinia may be contacted at email@example.com.
Your poetry was recently selected for the Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary Series, which reissues "significant out-of-print
books by important American poets." So tell me, how does it feel to be a classic?
Mark Twain once defined a classic as a book everyone feels they should read but nobody really wants to. The funny thing is that
no one feels obligated to read A Handful of Bees, but somehow over the years a fair number of people have. Best of all, its readers
seem to be enjoying the book enough to keep recommending it to others.
As I understand it, Carnegie Mellon University Press Director, Gerald Costanzo, established the series and selects the titles.
The first reprint, in 1989, was Thomas Lux's Sunday, originally published with Houghton Mifflin in 1979. Over one hundred
titles have followed, including books by Richard Hugo, Larry Levis, James Tate, and Deborah Digges.
That's pretty impressive company-
And I feel honored to be in it.
-but does anyone really read poetry today, especially in America?
A lot of people read poetry, not as much as fiction, of course, but it has its face in America-at public readings, in magazines
(both hardcopy and on-line), libraries, on PBS. There are numerous awards such as the Pulitzer and we have our Poet Laureates
(on city, state and national levels). April is "National Poetry Month." Low residency MFA programs of which poetry is a huge
component continue to pop up in large numbers all over America. The list goes on. It just hasn't been commercially tapped because
it's still seen as less accessible than prose. But I can't fault you for asking. There are days when I can't help but wonder if
more people are writing poetry than are actually reading it, carefully, and/or buying books.
So what's the problem?
Poets are notorious for being less commercially marketable, possibly because poetry has long-since been regarded as too private
and inaccessible, and they have a hard time sensing the scale of their audience. Consumers have become so accustomed to dialing
in for their next Idol that anything short of a "mega-audience" suggests failure. Few poets achieve this kind of commercial
success during their life-time (Billy Collins being one more well-known example). Unless you're in a position to cross-country
tour on your own dime, your books, as poet Catherine Sasanov once observed, get distributed like "boats out to sea with the
author's hope that no one sinks them along the way."
And yet, somehow an audience does get found.
Right, and then it builds up throughout one's career. It's a particularly wonderful feeling to receive a hand-written letter
from a reader who lives in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania and who takes the time to tell you that your words have helped him or her
in some way or that you've touched on a subject that significantly parallels something in his or her life. For me, this kind
of otherwise nonexistent personal contact is more important than sales figures. Great venues for readings are also worth their
weight in gold. Like the Cornelia Street Café's Ukrainian Literary Evening. I consider its writers and audience my
How did A Handful of Bees get from your desk to the press?
It's common today for many presses to commit to publishing only an author's first book and for poets to hop from press to press in
search of more lucrative contracts. One of my greatest joys has been developing a now 14-year relationship with poet, editor, and
CMU director, Gerald Costanzo, and associate director, Cynthia Lamb. Jerry took a chance on publishing my manuscript of short,
image-driven, lyric poems at a time when longer narrative poems were in vogue. It was selected from among approximately
800 other manuscripts that were mailed in during their open reading month. He and Cynthia continue to be my
Hey, so am I!
Thanks, Alex. That means a lot.
So where did Bees come from?
Bees was originally published in 1994 and was my MFA graduating creative thesis. The original manuscript, unlike the published
version, exceeded over 84 pages. By the time I was a graduate student, I felt confident that I could write a decent poem, but
I had anxieties about obsessively writing about one or two subjects. I also felt my subjects weren't world-worthy-"important"
enough. But the late great Stanley Kunitz once told Marie Howe (who I overheard telling this story at a Cambridge literary party)
that you can't be a writer without your obsessions. Poet Heather McHugh, with whom I had the good fortune to work with in
graduate school, nurtured my love of details and imagery. She always emphasized that from the keenly observed details of
one's life loom the larger, universal subjects.
Both editions of Bees have photographs of a child on the cover. That's you on the first edition, isn't it?
The first edition has a copy of a Polaroid photograph of me that my father took when I was about ten years old. I remember my
father calling me outside and directing me to stand in front of a tree from which hung a hammock made out of rope and wooden
boards stripped from a barrel. It was a very "Midwestern/Immigrant" kind of portrait. I remember staring into the camera lens,
feeling a gentle breeze across my face, and wondering what moved him that particularly afternoon to take the shot.
Many, many years later, I thought about that moment in which my father took the cover shot for a book he always believed in,
but would never live to see-a moment in which the future curled back, like a wave, onto the present. Since the book is
heavily autobiographical and contains a fairly large amount of childhood poems, the photograph was well appropriated.
CMU redesigned the second edition to give it a new look. The reprint's cover now has an image of another child-this time of a
young girl (vibrant pink shirt with a jet-black spray of hair) running barefoot on a beach, either toward or from something,
I can't tell.
But I've learned that she's the daughter of the Swedish photographer, Jean Schweitzer, who took the shot.
OK, let's go back into the past. When did you start writing poetry? Was there some particular turning point or bolt out of the blue?
I started writing poetry as a child. I recall, yes, bolting out of bed one night, running to my desk, and writing everything down
that came to my head. Folders and folders filled with fragments of poems. Mostly rhyming iambics of various lengths. Things like
"Of all the places I did roam/the place that's best is always home." Maybe the pleasure, at a young age, was in establishing
an external order from my earliest experiences with what felt like internal chaos. It was an almost desperate need to move,
metaphorically speaking, the heartbeat away from the body and onto the page. Hearing my own heartbeat as a child was very
frightening. It still is, by the way.
I also recall hearing a dusty, cranky voice recording of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" and taking all those wonderful, almost
palpable alliterations to bed with me, memorizing as many lines as I could. Poe was my first intense experience with sound
links-the ability for sound to shape a poem, give it texture, independent of content (in other words more than just onomatopoeia,
which is pounded into our heads early on). I knew I wanted this kind of physical sensation, this kind of pleasure,
throughout my life.
There were other, isolated occurrences to which I attribute my earliest fascination with language and poetic possibilities.
One, in particular, sticks out. A friend of my late mother's once wrote in a postcard that he, at the time of writing the
card, was listening to a minuet played on his transistor radio. I thought about this image for years-the beauty of something
so delicate transmitting through air in something so bare-bones designed. It was my first brush with Surrealism: the musical
intelligence of a minuet encased in a cheap transistor radio. I still try to imagine that minuet and its miniscule
musicians-strings buzzing like a fly caught under a glass jar.
When did you feel that this was something you could do well, and successfully?
Numerous unrelated events jump to mind:
When I was a college student, my father handed me my first manual typewriter for Christmas. He kissed it before handing it to me.
I guess you could say I'm both sentimental and superstitious.
Then there was poet Stuart Friebert who wrote a letter of recommendation for me to take with me "wherever," in which he stated that
he was certain that one day I would "make it" as a poet. I still have that letter. I couldn't bear to part with it.
Many years later, feeling like my life was going down the drain and having just received a note from an editor who said the
best thing I could do with my poems was "lose them," I rushed out of the house, down the street to Mission Hill Church
(I was living on Mission Hill in Boston at the time) and prayed, clutching my thin manuscript of poems. It turned out
to be the church's 100th-year anniversary day of miracles. I wasn't going to argue.
I started giving public readings-
You're exceptionally good at those, you know.
-and really enjoyed it.
The founding editor of AGNI magazine, Askold Melnyczuk, in a now-ancient order-form/brochure for the journal once listed
me in the category of "People No One Else Suspects Yet."
Certainly having poems placed in reputable magazines and doing well in prestigious awards competitions helped boost my confidence.
But I think I remember those less and think about the other above-mentioned events much more.
Your poetry is intensely personal. Are you trying to give readers a look into your heart and soul, or are you using
your own experience to illuminate certain universals? Or both?
Robert Frost once said, "No surprise to the writer, no surprise to the reader." By this he meant that the best poem ultimately
reveals, in addition to the reader, something about the poet to the poet. I never know where a poem is going to go once
I begin it. For me, often, it's a single image that creates the need to write the poem, to explore why that image has
gotten under my skin and won't let go. Ultimately, it exposes something about the heart and, I hope, soul. But I never
know my subject up front.
A young, emerging poet's conscious decision to write "of the heart" often moves him or her toward larger abstractions,
"important" themes that, unfortunately, more often than not, result in unearned or sentimental verse. I see this with
many students. It's best to move your poem's energies from precise details and images from your life: the sights,
smells, textures that you know like the back of your hand. If you stay true to those details, the poem will, in turn,
rise from a place that rings true. And when work rings true, it resonates with its reader(s) or listener(s).
The beautiful reflection or echo from that exchange designates for me that something pure has been released
You refer to Ohio quite a bit in your work. Did living in the Midwest help shape your subjects?
A serious introvert growing up, I spent a lot of time sitting in our ten-acre meadow watching and waiting for Ohio's famous
storms, trying to will clouds into dog shapes, imposing my restlessness on surrounding trees-"Standing still at great speeds"
as the late poet Joe Bolton once wrote. I wasn't exposed to urban distractions, so I spent a lot of time traveling inward.
I also spent a lot of time reading James Wright. Someone once said Midwestern writers grow up between two polarities:
cornfields and death.
Sounds like something you might've said.
What's the key to a good poem?
When the last line confirms the first line wasn't a waste of time.
You used to write art and culture criticism for Suchasnist, the Ukrainian journal of politics and the arts,
in the 1970s. How did you get involved in that?
I met Ukrainian poet Bohdan Boychuk through the painter Jurij Solovij in New York back in the late seventies.
I was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the time. Solovij was working on his "1000 Heads" project and
asked that I write a review of it for Svoboda. I'd also become involved with photography and had a strong interest
in Earthwork artists as well as conceptual/performance artists such as Joseph Beuys. I'd also interned at the Paula
Cooper Gallery and worked as studio assistant to Earthwork artist Alan Sonfist. So, you could say I was interested in
the New York City art scene. I wrote reviews for Suchasnist for only a relatively short period of time. A highlight for
me was interviewing George Costakis shortly after the Museum of Modern Art showcased his breathtaking, massive collection
of Russian avant-garde art.
Are you still writing criticism?
Not at present.
Let's go back to your other triumphs. You've also won the very prestigious Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
I'd been nominated nine times prior to winning. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, as the saying goes-though it's
an honor just to be nominated. I was finally awarded the prize in 2006 for a poem titled "Nude Descending" from
Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones. I was thrilled.
I understand your novel, Who Killed Andrei Warhol, was also nominated fairly recently. Congratulations!
Does that mean I need eight more nominations before I win?
With poets, that seems to be the myth. But given that you're a fiction writer, who knows? In any event, the nomination
certainly was well deserved.
Who are your favorite poets? Which poets influenced you the most?
Your first question is always difficult to answer as there are far too many to begin to list. Also, sometimes it's a favorite
image or line rather than an entire poem or collection that stays with me for days and influences me most.
But certainly several poets immediately come to mind. Sylvia Plath, for example. I recently re-visited her work through a
student of mine, Emily Van Duyne, with whom I worked this past academic term. Emily wrote an astute paper on Plato's
influences on Path's work. Re-reading Plath's poems, I was struck by her ability to say the unsayable, to work language
and imagery in a way that very few poets are able to.
Thomas Lux's poems were also a strong first love for me. When his early books, Memory's Hand Grenade and
The Glass Blower's Breath, first came out, I read them over and over, night after night. I carried them with
me everywhere I went. He changed the tone of what I thought poetry had to be. Above all, his poems were funny.
Funny, but serious. I wasn't used to that.
Finally, anyone who knows me well knows I'm a huge fan of Franz Wright's poems. (Both he and his late father,
poet James Wright, are Pulitzer Prize recipients). Franz and I met at Oberlin. The first time I read one of his
poems in Field magazine back in the seventies, I had the sensation of being in the presence of something I'd
never felt before. I felt physically changed.
Do you have any favorite Ukrainian poets?
I've long admired the poetry of (in no particular order here) Okasana Zabuzhko, Natalka Bilotserkivets, Serhiy Zhadan,
Lyudmila Taran, Yaroslav Dovhan, and Oleh Lysheha to name a few. There are others. Last summer, for example, I had the
pleasure of meeting, Marjana Savka, an exciting young poet whose work is new to me.
Did any Ukrainian poets influence you?
I can't say that my work has been directly influenced by these wonderful poets. More critical to my work was the hybrid
identity of growing up a first-generation Ukrainian American in the Midwest. One of my favorite quotes is: "Any culture
that cannot laugh at itself, cannot survive itself," though I don't recall who said it. This is not to say that I grew up
laughing at all the things that confused me. But humor certainly played an important role in connecting with others on
issues of ritual and cultural identity. I never consciously intended my poems to be funny. But I love it when audiences
laugh at certain passages or images. It brings down our defenses; we listen closer, experience one another more deeply.
You're also a translator-of poetry, and of Alexander Dovzhenko's The Enchanted Desna.
It was actually fiction writer Volodymyr Dibrova who introduced me to this piece and suggested I attempt to translate it.
I'm grateful for his encouragement. It took me over five years to translate it with generous help from many, though I will
always remain particularly grateful to Volodymyr, my late mother, Tamara Orlowsky, Basil Fedun and Lev Chaban. They were
patient and helpful beyond the call of duty.
Dovzhenko's is a magical piece. There's one meditation on the pleasant/unpleasant things of the world which, to my mind,
could easily be one of the most beautiful prose poems I've ever read. Actually, a number of the novella's sections read
like prose poems. I've used this piece to teach translation and to generate exercises at conferences. It's very well
received and effective as a teaching tool. I hope to present this translation at future conferences, particularly those
that cross-genre with film.
In addition to Dovzhenko's Desna, I've had the opportunity to translate numerous Ukrainian poets, but no one extensively.
Currently, I'm working on translating a larger group of Natalka Bilotserkivets's poems.
Is translating poetry like writing it?
Yes and no. Yes, because you're paying attention to form and craft and language all the time-same as when you write your own
poems. No, because you're working to bring forth another's voice rather than your own -- although some might argue this would
be similar to writing a persona poem. Translators often can't help (or rather deliberately choose to) impose their particular
sensibilities on a poem. Some poems need that kind of intervention because the poem just isn't as strong in English. We often
complain that a work has "lost something in the translation." But I've seen the opposite too: the work that loses something in
the original. Both conditions exist. The important thing is to keep writers interested in translating. Oftentimes it's a
thankless task. As I once wrote to Dibrova: it's "the sound of one hand clapping."
Your most recent book, Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, which was released this past March, has a terrific title,
but a rather somber set of themes related to your battle with cancer.
The book is about my journey through breast cancer. When I first started writing it, I thought no one is going to want to
read this. In fact, in the midst of my crisis, I certainly never imagined myself writing these poems. I was too terrified.
But faith is about turning that corner, eventually, toward light. As they say: one door closes and another door opens.
But the corridor can be hell.
But turn that corner you did. And, amazingly, you managed to do it with a sense of humor.
I had angels, even in that corridor. My sister, Maria, kept me believing positive things about my body; poet friend
Nancy Mitchell turned me repeatedly to my blank pages, encouraging me to write through my deepest doubts. In a review
of my book in ForeWord Magazine the poet and critic Melanie Drane wrote: "Through words, human beings posses the power
to articulate experience that would otherwise remain merely an incoherent jumble of events. To discern meaning in times
of profound rupture is a fundamentally creative act-and an insistence on survival. In this way, literature and writing
often serve as life-affirming, urgent resources, especially amidst crisis." I learned a lot from all three women for whom
I feel much respect and love.
Thank you, Dzvinia, for sharing yourself with us.
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