December 27, 2008

Archibald MacLeish

Archibald MacLeish [USA]
1892-1982

Born in Glencoe, Illinois, Archibald MacLeish was the son of Andrew MacLeish, a dry-goods merchant, and his third wife, a college professor, Martha Hillard. The father was reserved, stern, and removed from his four children. The mother worked to develop in them a strong sense of social responsibility, which would come characterize MacLeish’s own life.

He spent his childhood on their estate on Lake Michigan, attending a private school, Hotchkiss, from 1907-1911 before attending Yale University in 1911, where he majored in English. At Yale, MacLeish wrote poetry and was involved in campus literary and social activities, as well as participating in college football. In 1915 he graduated from Yale, and entered Harvard Law School in the fall. The next year he married Ada Taylor Hitchcock, with whom he had four children, one of them dying in infancy.


Upon the U.S. entry in World War I, MacLeish enlisted as a private in Yale’s hospital unit, but soon shifted to a combat unit. At the same time Yale University Press published his first collection of poems, Tower of Ivory (1917).

MacLeish returned home from the war without his beloved younger brother, Kenneth, who had been killed in air combat. Upon completing his law degree, MacLeish taught government at Harvard briefly before joining the Boston law firm of Choate, Hall, and Stewart. He was successful as a lawyer, but found it confining since he gave him little opportunity to write. He 1923 he was offered a partnership, but MacLeish chose instead to quit the firm, his father promising to support him and his family.

Taking his family to Paris in order to live more cheaply, MacLeish remained there for five years, befriending the numerous émigré American writers already living there, including Hemingway, Dos Passos, Fitzgerald, and Cummings. In order to transform himself into a modern poet, MacLeish learned Italian and studied the history of English-language poetry. Over these years, he produced five books, including The Pot of Earth (1925), Nobodaddy (1926), Einstein (1926), and The Hamlet of A. MacLeish (1928). Several of the poems of this period— including “Memorial Rain,” “You, Andrew Marvell,” and “Ars Poetica”—would become his most famous works.

Returning to the United States in 1928, he and his family moved into a farm in Conway, Massachusetts. In New Found Land of 1930, MacLeish proclaimed his love of the United States, despite his attraction to Europe. Another long poem, Conquistador (1932), dealt with issues symbolizing the American experience. In 1933 he won a Pulitzer Prize for that work.

Soon after his return to the U.S., MacLeish began writing from Henry Luce’s magazine Fortune, contributing numerous pieces on the American and international scenes and defining his relationship between art and society. Rejecting the modernist alienation from society and emphasis on the individual, MacLeish saw the poet as inevitably involved in his society. During the later 1930s, as Americans and their culture suffered under the depression, MacLeish wrote a number of radio and stage plays that dealt with current issues, Panic (1935), The Fall of the City (1937), and Air Raid (1938) among them.

Despite his strong American sentiments, MacLeish also criticized American values, arguing that Americans had no clear vision of their national goals and potential, something which he felt poetry could offer. But he was also highly criticized for these views as well as being scorned by the modernists for attempting to write a “public” poetry. The left attacked him, accordingly, as an unconscious fascist and the right saw him as a communist sympathizer, coining the word “fellow traveler” in particular reference to him.

His rising liberalism brought him into the circle of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, and later he would write speeches for the president. In 1939 Roosevelt nominated him to become the librarian of Congress, an organization he would radical reorganize. He 1941 he also directed the information/propaganda agency, the Office of Facts and Figures, moving from there to become the assistant director of the Office of War Information from 1942-1943. These positions left him little time for poetry.

Upon Roosevelt’s death, MacLeish returned to private life, writing, in 1948, his first collection of poetry since the late 1930s, Actfive andOther Poems, a statement of his continued love his country but also his ultimate disillusionment with its actions. In 1949 Harvard offered him a position as the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, a position he held until his retirement in 1962. During this period he continued to write, publishing Collected Poems 1917-1952 (1952), which won him his second Pulitzer Prize. His disgust with MacCarthyism resulted in the play The Trojan Horse, published the same year. In 1955, after a visit with Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeths hospital, MacLeish fought for Pound’s release, which was accomplished in 1958. That same year, he finished his Broadway play, J. B., a work based on the biblical tale of Job. The play won another Pulitzer Prize.

After his retirement from Harvard, he continued to be active in writing and journalism, writing another play Herkales in 1967. He died in Boston in 1982.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Tower of Ivory (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1917); The Happy Marriage and Other Poems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1924); The Pot of Earth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925); Nobodaddy: A Play (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dunster House, 1926); Streets of the Moon (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926); The Hamlet of A. MacLeish (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1928); Einstein (Paris: Black Sun Press, 1929); New Found Land: Fourteen Poems (Paris: The Black Sun Press, 1930 /Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930); Conquistador (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1932); Poems, 1924-1933 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1933); Frescoes for Mr. Rockefeller’s City (New York: John Day, 1933); Actfive and Other Poems (New York: Random House, 1948); Collected Poems 1917-1952 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952); Songs for Eve (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954); The Wild Old Wicked Man and Other Poems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968); Collected Poems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963); The Human Season: Selected Poems, 1926-1972 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972); Collected Poems, 1917-1982 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985)
For other information and poetry by MacLeish, please click here: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/macleish/macleish.htm

December 20, 2008

Gentian Cocoli

Gentian Çoçoli [Albania]
1972


Gentian Çoçoli comes from the southern Albanian town of Gjirokastra, near the Greek border. He is founder and editor of the literary periodical Aleph and works with Aleph Press.

Çoçoli has published three collections of poetry, most recently “Human Soil” in 2006. He has also translated several contemporary American poets and won a prize for his translation of Seamus Heaney.

His “Circumference of Ash” was selected a Best Poetry Book of the Year in 2001 by the Ministry of Culture in Albania.

He heads the culture and art department in Albania’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Qytetrime të përkohshme (Tirana, 1996); Perimetri i hirit (Tirana, 2001)


In the Hand of the Author

for Parid Teferiçi
I. 1921

So just like Nikolay Gumilyov
With aching feet, attention!
His snowy compass set for the last course,
Clutching the Iliad, hands outstretched,
To put into perspective what will happen
When the plummeting bullets accent his body
And let the entire, eventual revelation
Take its final path brooding on his brow.
Then a profound silence will fall,
Lighter than fresh snow on latter day drifts,
Polite whispers in Russian and ancient Greek will waft
From the broken down door, black as ink,
Leathery, ponderous, punctuated: "Please, madam, ladies first,"
"I insist, madam, ladies first."

II. 2005

December. Piazza d'Autore, Fontana di Lingua.
A meeting of men in marble. But bingeing
Has beaten, besmirched their bodies, even the strongest,
And in this transparent air, purposefully etched as well,
One of them, away from the rest, emerges not a step
From the medium, being a bas-relief, incomplete at that,
And with very human traits refined,
Though even the missing parts mirror what is human.
In his teeth he clenches a spout of wood (also made of marble),
Blocking the rest lodged in his body, undefined by the author,
While all that unseen water gurgles from his Adam's apple,
'round the backs of his heels, spurting out of a crack
Which the chisel's tip, held in a well-tanned fist, incised on his brow.

III.

Inhabitants of 1995. Not very far from here,
A siren of our age is heard,
Then shots, wailing, unfathomable silence.
And everything from the start again.
The human season has begun.
And even farther from us,
An ancient forest, attentive and morose,
Retains the power to close its heavy gates in time,
This time forever.

IV. 1998

In the silence of a foreign house, at the foot of the hill,
Burdened by the autumnal pathos of vineyards,
Translator Lirim sits down to unfetter a marble language.
It is a rare moment as thousands of eyes watch, as if on screen,
The point of his pen which has finally pierced
The capillary path, so deathly grey,
That ends at the heels.
Yet the blinding light in which he squints and flinches comes not
From the copper clasp of ancient sandals, but
From the barrel pin of sniper No---, who from the hill crest,
Hiding in houses nourishing fructose wisdom,
Hastens at high noon to shoot a hole in the tip of the quill
Which in the blink of an eye unleashes that hexametrical magma.
So nigh was language, but it was not to be written.

—Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie


[Në dorë të autorit.]


The Skotini Cave


Excursion into the dark, this most primaeval of motherhoods.
With our heads resting on those shadowy palms,
We crept, delving into the body of the cave,
But we did come back, we always came back.
North winds on the waters in the womb of the deep,
Sombre breezes blowing in the bowels of our beings.
We were there to give birth to awe, and our brows - to script,
The cave lent us her gravities,
A bevy of bats fluttered by towards the light.
"Once, the speleologists poured untold litres
Of fluorescein into the waters down there,
Which resurfaced miles away,
Where the Drino and Kardhiq rivers meet
At the Palokastra Cascade."
Its essence distilled in a mist teeming with words,
The fluorescein mapped the halves of our skulls.
And then, a free return. Subpassages or
Submeanings of synapses swelled to their margins,
With all of us there, and for one moment, we were language itself.


Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie


[Ne shpellën e Skotinisë.]

December 18, 2008

Eliseo Diego

Eliseo Diego [Cuba]
1920-1996

Born on July 2 in Havana, Eliseo Diego was a child in a family that traveled extensively during his youth in France and Switzerland, resulting in experiences he felt were important to his poetic development.

He began by writing short stories, and soon helped with others such as Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, Octavio Smith, and Virgilio Piñera to found Origenes, which became one of the most important journals in contemporary Cuban literature.


Diego studied and taught English literature in courses held at the Casa de las Americas. He was in charge of the Infant Narrations and Literature Department of José Marti National Library until 1970.


He also translated extensively works by Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf and others, becoming the editor of Union magazine, published by the National Union of Writers and Artists. In 1988 and 1989 he received the Critics Prize of that organization. In 1993 he was awarded the Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Award and the Juan Rulfo International Prize for Latin American and Caribbean Literature.


He published his first book of poetry, En lal Calzada de Jesús del Monte in 1949, and continued to publish poetry and fiction throughout his life. He also wrote two collections of poetic prose: Versiones (1970) and Libro de quizás y de quién sabe (1989).


Diego died of a heart attack in 1996 while traveling in Mexico City, and his body was returned to Cuba, where he was buried.

BOOKS OF POETRY

En la Calzada de Jesús Monte (1949); Por los extraños pueblos (1958); El oscuro esplendor (1966); Muestrario del mundo or Libro des las maravillas de Boloña (La Habana: UNEAC, 1969); Los días de tu vida (La Habana: Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, 1977); A través de mi espejo (1981); Inventario de asombros (Ciudad de La Habana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1982); Veintiséis poemas recientes (México: Equilibrista, 1986); Soñar despierto (1988); Cuatro de Oros (México: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 1991); El silencio de las pequeñas cosas (La Habana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1993); En otro rein frágil (Ciudad de La Habana: Ediciones UNIÓN, 1999); Aquí he vivido (La Habana: Instituto Cubano del Libro, 2000); Poemas al margen (El Vedado, Ciudad de La Habana: Ediciones Ateneo, 2000); El Sitio en que tan bien se está: selección de poemas de Eliseo Diego (La Habana: Ediciones Boloña, 2005)

BOOKS IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Poems, trans. by Kathleen Weaver and Eliseo Diego (New York: Center for Cuban Studies, 1982)

Rupert Loydell

Rupert Loydell [England]
1960

Rupert Loydell was born in London in 1960. He founded Stride magazine in 1982, shortly before starting his degree in creative writing and painting, and just before founding Stride Books (and Stride Cassettes). Between then and spring 2008 he published several hundred titles in Stride’s wide-ranging list of poetry, fiction, and critical texts; the magazine continues online.


Loydell has also edited numerous books, including How the Net Is Gripped: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (1992), A Curious Architecture: A Selection of Contemporary Prose Poems (1996), My Kind of Angel: i.m. William Burroughs (1998), and, forthcoming, Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh: Manifestos and Unmanifestos. He has also done several artist's books. His prose book, Stone Angels: Prose 1979-1993 was published in 1995.



In addition to editing Stride, he is currently Senior Lecturer in English with Creative Writing at University College Falmouth, a widely exhibited painter of small abstract paintings, and a widely anthologised and published poet. [Photo by Geoff Sutton]





BOOKS OF POETRY

Pitched at Silence (London: The Tenorman Press, 1991); Between Dark Dreams (Brixham: Acumen Books, 1992); Timbers Across the Sun (Salzburg: University of Salzburg Press, 1993); The Giving Of Flowers (West Kirby: Headland, 1994); Frosted Light: fourteen sequences, 1978-1988 (Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1996); Home All Along (Yelverton: Chrysalis Poetry, 1999); A Hawk into Everywhere [with Roselle Angwin] (Exeter: Stride, 2001); The Temperature of Recall [with Sheila E. Murphy] (Trombone Press, 2002); The Museum of Light (Todmorden: Arc, 2003); Eight Excursions [with David Kennedy] (The Cherry On The Top Press, 2003); Familiar Territory (Bristol: Bluechrome, 2004); Snowshoes Across the Clouds [with Robert Garlitz] (Exeter: Stride, 2004); A Conference of Voices (Exeter: Shearsman, 2004); Risk Assessment [with Robert Sheppard] (Damaged Goods 2006); The Smallest Deaths (Bristol: Bluechrome, 2006); Ex Catalogue (Lancaster: Shadow Train 2006); An Experiment in Navigation (Exeter: Shearsman, 2008); Overgrown Umbrellas (with Peter Dent) [Lost Property, 2008]; Boombox (Exeter: Shearsman, forthcoming 2009)

Rupert Loydell's Stride publications can reached at this link: www.stridemagazine.co.uk


Dedicated to Compulsion


The sound of your skin, shadows, grief,
and my hair cut just so, surprise you.
I turn around, know exactly who I am
and you know after the mirror tells me
wish again. Kiss it and say encore.
I think I could keep up with you now.
That’s the funny thing about perception,
you can’t see where two worlds touch.
You are the one-who-fights-shadows,
that’s why I walked across your back,
grey and white body refusing to rise,
turning white, silver, the way needs do.
It’s like I’m firing back at the world,
charging more than I could afford –
or so you said sometimes. But I
was hungry among bare branches,
her bed empty at dawn, a hand on me,
asleep, athirst for the world to stop
or pain to speak. No one could say
a poem, someone else will figure it out,
strut away buzzing and booming.
Burn all your notebooks. A small fire
under your pillow opens the heart
up to light and gives it its song.


© Rupert M Loydell





Held Together with Water
for Alan


My daughter is having a panic attack, midstream,
as her kayak floats away. The wind and the tide
are pushing her where she doesn’t want to be
now the sunshine for our picnic has gone.
I got lost in a box of Lego with the girl next door.
When I am older I want a puppy but the way
will be blocked by rows of raspberry bushes
and angry swans. There are gliders overhead,
guardian angels trying to catch the wind. A table,
adrift in the river, is inches deep in dust. I cut
my finger on the wooden gate when I got home.
“Call me that again and I will break your nose.”
Death called me on my mobile to let me know that
you had fallen off the balcony into intensive care.
The bleeding has stopped but you’re still sedated
while student heartache goes on. This is the week
for final submissions, you’re less pale than before.
We number hurt in sequence as memory pulls apart,
and protect ourselves from damage, dust and wear.
Held together with water, I pull the boat to shore.

© Rupert M Loydell





The Secret Life of Polemic



An unending stream of deceptive signals,
opinion spluttering like a coffee machine.
You could call it compulsion or vitriol,
a personal crusade or an ongoing debate.
I have spent a lot of time thinking
about argument and have concluded
the opposite is true. Where is meaning,
interpretation, evaluation and expression?
Whisper to preserve my secret: I am
well aware of my own world view.

© Rupert M Loydell







The Secret Life of My Father

Model trains in boxes in the loft,
local history papers on his desk.
Photos of now-demolished buildings,
a foundation stone from the rubble.
Unreadable notes towards a book
full of not-to-be-forgotten facts.
That day is not yet here. The situation
has changed. My now long-gone father
has turned to tears and remembering,
an awkwardly choreographed embrace.

© Rupert M Loydell






The Secret Life of the Igloo

The rich future I imagine for myself
is a blizzard of internal monologue
and empty white horizons. Half-blind,
eyes closed against the cold sunlight,
I try to define a presence, wander
between possessions and passions.
But what’s the point, me telling you
about it if you can see for yourself?
On the information superhighway
there is no room for ice or snow.

© Rupert M Loydell


The House With the Red Door
for Jessica, who asked

Can we go back to the house with the red door?
We must disregard old favourites, learn to forget
the past. It is usually found where there is not
too much direct sunlight, a sudden picture that
was hidden but is still included. No-one was able
to write down things exactly as they happened
but images are preserved with amazing sharpness.
We are surprised by the apparition, the sound
of a wind-up toy in motion, the bustle of mind
in the mouth. It is a time for our words to dance
and our bodies to celebrate spring, time to convince
the children they don’t really miss their last home.
We concentrate on the positive: larger garden, safe
places to cycle, their treehouse, how near the village
is to the creek. Some days we canoe in the rain,
disturbing herons and geese, but when the sun shines
we paddle along to the pub and think how lucky we are.
There is nothing unexpected about these events, except
that they are new, and almost justify moving. What is
the point of this small landscape we have adopted
unless we can call it home? It is a different space
to the city, with different meanings for words like
distance and proximity. This is the pub, that is
the church, and there is the village hall. The shop
is a mile in that direction, if you want to moor
your boat here talk to Pete. It’s nice in the bar
when the tourists go home, though it’s their meals
that fund our quiet drinks. Whatever point of access
takes the mood or imagination, there are only
two roads in, the lane with passing places out.
A chasm has been opened and this is where
I want my poem to go, rowing across the sky
of water at high tide. We cannot ever go back
through the red door. It is no longer our house,
we would not recognize it as even the same world.

© Rupert M Loydell







A Cartoon Song
for Peter Gillies



My friend who paints pictures quickly
and considers every word he writes
is worried about freedom. This essay,
he says, is undefined, brings a new
set of problems to the course.
In the pub, Bill seizes upon
the catalogue of paintings I’ve
brought along as if it’s magic,
and can see it all straightaway.
Work I’ve struggled to comprehend
he glances at and understands. In
Guinness terms it’s all fluid dynamics
and computer hum, the chaotic crackle
of life today: intereference and inter-
ruption, the way we circle around
common occurences, the sudden
slash and slide of colour within a
black outline or bright pattern box.
All things to all: overwritten poems
and under-rehearsed excuses,
moments of wonder and confusion.
The CD skips in the jukebox to make
the best dance loop I’ve ever heard.
‘Time to go home gentlemen.’
And for once the landlord is right.
Wonder goes back in the plastic bag,
we neck what’s left in the glass and
head out into the dark. Things that
float, things that live, things that die
are on show in a gallery nearby.
The world is in the making and
all my marking waits to be done.
If we could slow down or just not
speed up, this would be a cartoon
song. As it is, it’s a long way from
here to where we started out, so
I’d best be moving on. The artist
emailed back and said he’d send
a catalogue but the gallery never
replied. Life is by invitation only,
we are all natural and legitimate
heirs. You have always been intent
upon challenging how the poem
might be made, but I am beginning
not to care. Intuition seems to do
.



© Rupert M Loydell

Sandra Moussempes

Photo by Frank Pruja
Sandra Moussempès [France]
1965

Sandra Moussempès was born in Paris in 1965. Her first book, Exercices d'incendie was published by Fourbis in 1994, and three years later the prestigious French publisher Flammarion published her second collection, Vestiges de fillette. Since that time, she has published four further titles.

Moussempès was a resident at the Villa Médicis of the Academy of France in Rome in 1996, and in 1999 was awarded the Villa Kujoyama residence. She has received several grants from the Centre National du Livre for residences in France and aboard.

Her work has appeared in several anthologies. And she translated several poets from the United States, including Kristin Prevallet, Serge Gavronsky, Lee-Ann Brown, and Carolyn Drucker.

Moussempès works as a creative writing teacher in a Paris high school and sings with several Paris- and London-based bands.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Exercices d'incendie (Paris: Fourbis, 1994); Vestiges de fillette (Paris: Flammarion, 1997); Hors Champs (Besançon: CRL Franche conté, 2001); Captures (Paris, Flammarion, 2004); Le seul jardin japonais à portée de vue (Bordeaux: L'Attente, 2005); Biographie des idylles (Bordeau: L'Attente, 2008); Photogénie des ombres peintes (Paris: Flammarion, forthcoming 2009)

Author statement in French:

Je travaille sur la surface et les interactions internes des "apparences" en tentant d'exprimer (intonation/détonation) la face cachée des événements retracés. Entrer au plus près du langage formel et de l'intime (le contenant nécessitant un contenu) dans les diversions scéniques d'une "cosmétologie" du miroir. Je travaille sur la surface et les interactions internes des "apparences" en tentant d'exprimer (intonation/détonation) la face cachée des événements retracés. J'écris par fragments en tentant de décaler les imageries "conventionnelles" notamment les clichés autour de la féminité ou d'un environnement inquiétant. De déchiffrer les codes mentaux qui nous entourent en accueillant des matériaux syntaxiques et sensoriels qui me semblent indéfinissables par essence mais non dénués de beauté. L 'étrange est pour moi une forme d' arrangement entre les diffractions/effractions du mouvement & de la lanque. Une solution peut-être au vacarme consensuel."

The Enraptured

(Stills: decoction/invitation/puzzle/heart spirit)

/situated in the basement

—for him all eviction remains artificial

the house bears
its deficiencies

(vapor on the windowpane)

hides a bend

/coming in the night: this night, the act and the audience more than ever
leaves, clusters of life, emptied pumpkins
point of the first step under the arch
# fear

/the man remained sitting for hours in the penumbra
at night, the door stays open, easy to reach to puncture the tube
already long and silent
assembles the infiltrated water
since the eddies of the bathroom

/common extension
of the grand ball with no guests
the shadows thrash about
returning
this red of the Basque country, this anvil red
& the thousand rooms
the apartment too in this case why not all recollections
not in accordance with regulations

/there was this chill, more than anywhere else and no reason for it
a sharp peculiar smell
the noise in the attic
an altogether unpleasant combustion
all that in front
and in the interior, that which no longer opens since some of the luster holds
the whole family, the joy, the hidden efforts, the academics’ summers,
the mixing of types (coming from everywhere to live intensely …), the
suckling pig or the dismounting of hierarchies


*

even though it might seem strange to think
one will search amid the virtues, that physiology of the spirit
a substance porous to one’s liking
—care shimmering from lips, a small upturned nose, overly delicate hair,
vigorous body in the prime of life—
seeing that, feminine strength or no
the being is suspicious, restrains muscles and freak events
applies itself to the contusion of foreign bodies
—that inject themselves—


*

entirely light and hidden outside the game
not to become that other that dogs assault on the road
the knife will serve me as a major
weapon
because a raptor arrived at the wrong time
from the wrong side
I run to the infirmary (through a long passage)
“is it the bird?”
I hear the first shots
end of the match, in three remissions:
the creaking of the door, of the green elementary school blackboard,
the little cage fastened to the radiator
freezing requires similar plans of departure
for this operation it will be necessary to take off from the eXemplorary world
entrust ones task to professors of instrumentalism
(diverging from their original form)
then, they will excel
in the methodical art of extracting vital substances from
each organ in action
for the snare to close itself and resolve
the enigma of the intrusion


*


my skin is light
the 2 sexes
obscure the surface of water

; I draw near to the one who fades gradually from the screen
he makes me nervous, tense, the impregnable point of view that
defies all mirages
; I inhale his lips and mine go up in smoke
I look at the skin on his stomach, the back: a tough armature
; the screen detaches, the reptile insect crosses the membrane
(I wonder if he can bear my density)


*

“you explore your body”
as we allow oneself the right to think
they felt the immense loss of time at each border
but more than a heavy silhouette, the voice curbed all her decisions
to live here or elsewhere on the outskirts of a city in the space of a construction site
along the trajectory or under a clement sky

-Translated from the French by Elena Rivera

December 17, 2008

Paul Vangelisti

Paul Vangelisti [USA]
1945

Paul Vangelisti was born into an Italian-American family in San Francisco in 1945. His father was an accountant for the San Francisco Board of Education, and his mother worked at the department store I. Magnins, on the very floor and at the same counter where in the movie Vertigo, James Stewart takes Kim Novak to outfit her in the manner of Madeline Elster. “When I visited my mother at work, I always expected Kim Novak to walk in,” he humorously recalls. “Some years later, I was working at a butcher shop, and one day I was asked to take a delivery out to a woman in a waiting car; it was a stunning green Jaguar roadster, and sitting in the driver’s seat was Novak.”

Vangelisti graduated from the University of San Francisco in English and philosophy in 1967, and then, for a year, did post-graduate work at Trinity College at the University of Dublin. In 1968 he moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California; and in 1972 he completed all but the dissertation for his Ph.D. at the same institution.

That year he began work as an editor and reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, where he served as assignment editor until 1974. He curated an exhibition and performance of southern California poets in 1973, beginning a lifetime commitment to the poetry of the area. During this same period he began the literary magazine Invisible City, one of the most notable and intellectually challenging journals in the country. The journal published the work of numerous international, national, and southern California figures, as well as essays on various philosophical and critical issues.

From 1974 to 1983 he worked as the Cultural Affairs Director for the Los Angeles radio station, KPFK, and there, from 1978-1983, he also produced the “Los Angeles Theater of the Ear,” which presented poetry and performances by major international figures, premiering on radio writers such as Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, David Hare, Corrado Costa, Amiri Baraka, Kenneth Patchen, Peter Handke and others. In the summers of 1976, 1978 and 1979 he was a lecturer in American literary at the Adam Michiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, experiences which were reflected in his editing (with Milne Holton) of New Polish Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978).

He began publishing his own poetry in the early 1970s, starting with Communion (with an introduction by the noted poet George Oppen), The Tender Continent, Pearl Harbor, The Extravagant Room, and other books in Italian. He also began translating from the Italian, publishing several collections of Italian poets and books by individual poets such as Rocco Scotellaro, Adriano Spatola and Vittorio Sereni. Beginning in the early 1970s, he also was a co-founder and publisher of Red Hill Press which published out of both northern and southern California.

In the early 1980s, he began teaching part-time at several local colleges and universities, including East Los Angeles College, the University of California, San Diego, and Otis College of Art & Design. It was at that last institution where be became a full-time professor, and, ultimately (in 1999), the chair of the Graduate Writing Program.

Meanwhile, he has continued to publish poetry and translations: Another You, Domain, Alephs Again, Villa, Nemo, A Life, and Alphabets 1986-1995. Throughout these years, he also organized numerous poetry readings and events, including special conferences on contemporary poetry, while editing new journals such as Ribot and The New Review of Literature. His selected poems were published as Embarrassment of Survival in 2001. With Luigi Ballerini, Vangelisti recently begin editing a series of anthologies of 20th century American poetry translated into Italian, “Nuova Poesia Americana.”

Vangelisti has been one of the major forces in the poetry and drama scene in southern California, and has helped numerous younger figures to find readings and publishers for their work. He has won NEA poetry fellowships and a NEA translators fellowship, and is a respected collagist.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Communion (Fairfax, California: Red Hill Press, 1970); Air (Los Angeles and Fairfax: Red Hill Press, 1973); Cinq [with John Thomas] (Los Angeles and Fairfax: Red Hill Press, 1974); The Tender Continent (Los Angeles: Chatterton’s Bookstore, 1974); Il tenero continente [in Italian] (Turin: Geiger, 1975); Pearl Harbor (San Francisco: Isthmus Press, 1975); The Extravagant Room (Los Angeles and Fairfax: Red Hill Press, 1976); La stanza stavagante [in Italian] (Turin: Geiger, 1976); Portfolio (Los angeles and Fairfax: Red Hill Press, 1978); Un Grammo d’Oro [with Giuliano Della Casa, in Italian] (Rome: Etrusculudens, 1981); Another You (Los Angeles and San Francisco: Red Hill Press, 1980); Ora Blu [with Giuliano Della Cassa, in Italian] (Modena, Italy: Tetai del Bernini, 1981); Abandoned Latitudes with Robert Crosson and John Thomas] (Los Angeles and San Francisco: Invisible City/Red Hill Press, 1983); rime [with Don Suggs] (Los Angeles and San Francisco: Red Hill Press, 1983); Il Trisegno 21: the first time ever [in Italian] (San Polo d’Enza: Tam Tam, 1984); Los Alephs [with Giulia Nicolai, in Italian] (Livorno, Italy: Bellforte Editore Libraio, 1985; Domain [with G. T. James and Joe Goode] (Los Angeles: and San Francisco: Invisible City/Red Hill Press, 1986); Giuliano Della Casa Paul Vangelisti [in Italian and English] (Mantova, Italy: Centro di Cultura, 1987); Alephs Again (Los Angeles and San Francisco: Red Hill Press, 1986); Villa (Los Angeles: Littoral Books, 1991); The Simple Life [in Italian and English] (Modena, Italy: Maboratorio d’Arte Grafica Roberto Gatti, 1993); Nemo (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995); Luci e colori d’Italia [with William Xerra, in Italian, French, Spanish and German] (Mantova, Italy: Corraini Editore, 1996); A Life [with Don Suggs, in Italian and English] (Piacenza, Italy: ML & NFL, 1997); Alphabets (Los Angeles: Littoral Books, 1999); Embarrassment of Survival: Selected Poems 1970-2000 (New York: Agincourt, 2001); Agency (Los Angeles: Seeing eye Books, 2003); Days Shadows Pass (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2007); Two (Greenfield, Massachusetts: Talisman House, 2010)


╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006


Plain Old Bartok

Disappointment came to find us as we were
lighting cigarettes for ghosts, babyface.
the thunder never mentioned who she was.
Facility is a door declined at both ends
as the police like to say: toujours
the moon toujours the moon toujours.
Because usually at that size, my dove,
there’s only metabolism and survival.

Tappers and farmers are now about to blur
as the speed of the film reaches a place
of comfort or a suitable just because.
Movies, like a long weekend, sometimes tend
to leave the ordinary a little dour
or at least more interesting or pure
than most things. Movies aren’t really like love
but a better way to screen arrivals.

Basically happy days when you’re not sure
of anything much except that same space
the brusque white dog or jaunty crow undoes
upon waking as who or how. What lends
to the dazzling vagueness of time is the lure
of repetition, getting it right, surer
than before that one notices just above
the trees a restlessness nothing rivals.

Space, then, while it might look like the cure
mostly arrives a little late to outpace
the sweet birds’ twitter and lilt, the buzz
and swell of light heading right to the end
of staring. White, white, blue, purple, green stir
the other side of memory impure
as ear or heart in a dish or slap ungloved.
And ever that clever curse of revival.

As you appear more rigorous and sure,
you become more easily profligate. Erase
how you put your idea to it, what was
clarity meant swinging at least eleven
of those suckers. Enough temperature,
thank you, for elasticity to endure
my silly little thing however much of.
Tomorrow, yesterday, today—archival.

Some prefer enduring it for dancing.
Face it, most want having it commonplace.
Puzzlingly enough, anything sadder
pretends to the economic or comic,
surely a common frustration if
alluringly simple to renounce. Here
love will never find a way just something
to rival its often bang bang start.

A man ordinarily has to lose to err.
Or not. What nobody has to face to.
All are eligible only because
jive is jive no matter the pitch of spending.
Life’s thorns gawk like children of the lower
classes. Alas. All are waiting for rain, sure
of that which is habitually beloved.
Rum-tum-tum. Rum-tum-tum. The queasy lull.

What is all this juice and all this joy,
said Hopkins, or was it Truman, or just
another poet trying to act like
a poet on the radio. Languorous
is no moral outside language, even
when you must, at every opportunity,
decline. Eight is what a wheelbarrow does,
eight is what must sound already eaten.


___
Reprinted from Review of Two Words: French and American Poetry in Translation, edited by Béatrice Mousli (Los Angeles: Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2005). Copyright ©2005 by Paul Vangelisti.

December 16, 2008

G. C. Waldrep

G. C. Waldrep [USA]
1968

Born in 1968 in South Boston, Virginia, G. C. Waldrep attended Harvard as an undergraduate and earned a Ph.D. in American history from Duke University.

He began writing poetry in 1995. His first book of poems, Goldbeater's Skin, won the 2003 Colorado Prize for Poetry, judged by Donald Revell. His second full-length collection, Disclamor, appeared from BOA Editions in 2007. His third, Archicembalo, won the 2008 Dorset Prize, judged by C.D. Wright, and is due out from Tupelo Press in 2009. He is also the author of two chapbooks, The Batteries (New Michigan Press, 2006) and One Way No Exit (Tarpaulin Sky, 2008).

His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, New England Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, American Letters & Commentary, Tin House, Hambone, Aufgabe, New American Writing, and other journals. His work has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of America, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Campbell Corner Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, as well as a Pushcart Prize. He was a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Literature.

As a historian, Waldrep is interested in the intersection between the emotional and spiritual lives of working-class people in the American South. His book Southern Worker and the Search for Community (University of Illinois Press, 2000) was grounded in over four hundred oral interviews with former textile workers in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

Waldrep earned an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in 2005 and subsequently taught at Deep Springs College and Kenyon College. Currently he lives in Lewisburg, Pa., where he teaches at Bucknell University and directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. He also serves as Editor-at-Large for The Kenyon Review.

From 1995 to late 2000, Waldrep lived in the New Order Amish community at Yanceyville, North Carolina, where he worked variously as a carpenter’s helper, window-maker, and baker. Since 2005 he has been affiliated with a related Anabaptist group, the Old Order River Brethren.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Goldbeater’s Skin (Fort Collins, Colorado: Center for Literary Publishing, 2003); The Batteries (Grand Rapids, Michigan: New Michigan Press, 2005); Disclamor (Rochester, New York: BOA Editions, 2007); One Way No Exit (Grafton, Vermont: Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2008); Archicembalo (Dorset, Vermont: Tupelo Press, 2009)

Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2006-2007



What Is a Metaphor

A humorous joke at the expense of this month's endangered species. Walking by the lagoon it seems improbable: that we laugh? That we remain silent? That we walk at all? Mud clinging to the reeds which cling in turn to the cuffs of our pants which are not actually ours: proximity vs. resistance.

A colonial language which becomes the official language of the post-colonial state which becomes the price of admission into the metropolis.

Onward Xian soldiers. When I was a child the Baptists stood up when the accompanist pounded the opening chords of "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus," but the Methodists remained seated. This was a neater division than class, one we repeated every summer in the orchard between the roots of the damsons.

Asphalt poured over disturbed ground—it appears solid, but it's not.

An admission of doubt, which is not the same thing as an admission of guilt but will suffice in most kitchen recipes. Our own traces, for example: in June dust. In June dusk. At the length of its tether desire comes bounding back. A whistle will do it. The right word, spoke in an even, conversational tone. Though it brings a death. The crust shot through with its leaven.

Boys, dikes, wooden shoes. Vast sibling rivalry. A lisp affected in criminal court. Someone or something has been burning.


__
Reprinted from New American Writing, No. 24 (2006)
Copyright ©2006 by G. C. Waldrep

December 15, 2008

Braulio Arenas

Braulio Arenas [Chile]
1913-1988

The principle figure in and founder (with Enrique Gómez Correa) of the Grupo Mandrágora group (the Mandrake Group), Arenas was born in 1913 in La Serena, Chile. He began as a Surrealist, editing the magazine Leitmotiv (1941) and the anthology Actas surrealistas (1974). His book El AGC de la Mandrágora traces of the history of that group, which also included Chilean poets such as Gómez Correa, Teófilo Cid, Jorge Cáceres, and Gonzalo Rojas and the Venezuelan writer Juan Sáchez Peláez. Later in his career, he abandoned Surrealism.

Among Arenas' most important works are Luz adjunta (Adjoining Light, 1950), Discurso del gran poder (Discourse on Might, 1952),) and Poesia 1934-1959 (Poetry 1934-1959). He also wrote several novels, including Cerro caracol (1961) and El castillo de Perth (1959), as well as dramas and belle lettres.


Arenas also translated, publishing a Spanish edition of Rimbaud's Une saison en enfer and Isidore Ducasse's Poésies.


In 1984 he was awarded Chile's Premio Nacional de Literatura (the National Prize for Literature).


BOOKS OF POETRY

El mundo y su double
(Santiago: Ediciones Altazor, 1941); La mujer mnemotécnica (1941)
Luz adjunta (1950); La simple vista (1951); Discurso del gran poder (Santiago: Editorial la noria, 1952); El pensamiento transmitido (1952); La gran vida (1952); Versión definitiva (1956); Poemas 1934-1959 (Santiago: Ediciones Mandrágora, 1959); La casa fantasma (Santiago: L. Rivano, 1962); Memorándum mandrágora (1985)




The Enigma's Word

1

On the wall in the mirror
In the hair that knots the night
In the mirror
In the tortuous passage from bird to oil
On the wall
On a balcony for each light
For every shadow for all company
Made to the measure of the two of us

You walk from cloud to cloud as if you were the rain
From enigma to enigma as if you were the only answer
You walk among glances as if you were a tear

You can't wait to see yourself as soul over the earth
For a nation of birds to appear under the ocean (the cloud will be left
[exposed to the elements)
You are still looking for the time you lost to ecstasy
When you rubbed your ring and guessed the time
For Love


II

I defined the word soul in accordance with your lips
I waited for the night because you were visible only in the dark
And again for a while at dawn and again and again
Sometimes for just a few seconds
And it felt like a party when you stayed the entire afternoon
Now I make out your eyes through the memory of you

For a few seconds
How can
A few seconds
Account for a lifetime

Yet those moments
Have corrected centuries of my existence
They have perfected me when I could no longer wait to kiss you
They began beating when you approached

So different one hour from the other
Hour of the heart the lip's hour my soul's hour
The bird's hour
Like an oil stain over the ocean


III

The plaster was trying to get its share of that joyous afternoon
[Certain stalactites behind the dark bars of a cage were singing the
eternal scream of the fireplace
[Three young women went by pressing a bunch of flowers to their
chests*
[I was about to leave with just a few minutes left before my departure.
[It was impossible to be overjoyed.
[I had a premonition that the morning would be luminous and clear
[Could the three young women be of significance in my life?
[-Bah-, I said without thinking
[But after losing sight of them I began to wonder: why had I stated
with such conviction that they were pressing a bunch of flowers to their chests?
[-Bah-, I said once again and immediately thought about those mysteries one
never quite manages to put a name to and which seem to hover in the air like bees
around the bouquets which young women press against their chests in the early hours.


IV

The cliff is an apterous insect
The mist carries you without missing a wave
The mist makes the most of the last strands of light
And puts the last touches on its radiant tapestry

You are rehearsing your challenge on that tapestry
You insist on attracting the raft
You persist on being both cliff and shipwreck
Life anoints your lips with waves

Go back to summer to your last summer
The women and their boiled eyes** are walking across the courtyard
From so much traveling down the road of life only love can trace
The road of dream which this poem travels until it belongs to you

The sun and the moon brought their eyes to a boil
Their glances take care of the rest
Their glances are finishing the drawing
Of this moving tapestry which depicts life
A ship crosses the horizon
Slowly
Slowly like pain forming inside a tear


V

For a better destiny
And the aroma of coffee which greets the traveler in the morning
Where the little black bull crosses the prairie
This morning I knew only about throwing projects out
Like pulling a thread through a fire

The prairie folded at the corners and suddenly hurled itself against the train
Stars cups of coffee little bulls and all
They were humming an old song
"How can the past"
Yes the past that is no longer a project
A tortuous pas that "became a cricket and waited until dawn"
Yes, until dawn and all through the night without skipping an hour
Inexorably like cream in a cold cup of coffee

And another hour will have devoured its seconds
I can't wait to kiss you at that hour
Time will never wrinkle the hour's pure face
It is a face of the hour liberated in space
Mirror of your love: I can't wait for the hour when I will see myself in you


VI

Mouth over time
Words licked by fire
And the night is dream's grass
Like an unnecessary sea
for an indispensable shipwrecked man

Sky without railings
Without abyss without eyes
Led by the hand of
Of love

The rain is pouring down
Glass turns into night and fools the windows
The jungle turns into a bird and fools the sky
Love turns into bread crumbs to attract the sparrows
Man turns into dream. Woman turns into eyelid

Why go on?
Let's continue
Let's keep going until the poem devours its own words
And all that is left is a blank piece of paper
We will gladly exchange
for a stanza of alexandrines
Or a sip of fire water


VII

Not a single glance is left of that eye which ten generations of cyclops cried over. The eyes of the young female bicyclops spoke to her dreams about those twenty years. Reality's pillow is standing on the other side of an avenue lined with eucalyptus trees and is mimicking the birds wearing white corsets. They your tricyclops merrily put on the corsets which are still beating, warm corsets, corsets which wear their nervousness like feathers.


Corsets and hair were all that the night allowed the young cyclops to see, seeing that he was blind for life. By cyclops are blind nowadays, just as roses don't sing like they used to. There was a time when roses sang and children cried. Not like today. They see with eyes that are wide open because of hunger. There was a time when fishes chewed tobacco and spat, a time when all the houses in the city had roofs made of gold so that chirping swallows could come to rest on them.


The blind cyclops allowed his hearing to guide him and was thus able to tell his native island apart from other islands. Now he can only make out the phosphorescent corsets that slip down this bitter night. Some of these corsets as well as the women's hair are gathered in the street. Beautiful women who fly and are happy. He goes up to them, but listens as they erase themselves all of a sudden. he again places his pillow on the ground and dreams about them, but his dream has changed. A burning diamond is stuck to the eye on his forehead and he shouts and wakes up, because there was a time when love was everything, a time when the sun was just a mirage visible from far away and not from up close.


VIII

Good-bye, good-bye word of the enigma
You have arrived.

The words have kept their word
Lips have accomplished their kisses
Eyelids accomplished their dreams

On the wall in the mirror
In the hair
In the calming murmur of the tree the birds fly
The mirror reflects the balcony where love knots the couple's neighborhood
To shed light on the enigma

Enigma of love which is always an enigma that sheds light
Creates a sky at the expense of the earth
Oh unnecessary day
For an indispensable night

Oh lucid coal
I can't wait
for the diamond hour.



*Their names are Acha, Fatima, Mariel
**I am reminded of the eyes of the "Lady of Elche"

Translated from the Spanish by Beatriz Zeller





The Obvious Sight

A clearly interior woman
I saw her in her eyes
I hugged her around herself and kissed her on her lips
As far as her feet were concerned I took off her shoes
As far as my life is concerned she answers to it
As far as rightness was concerned the two of us were right
We possessed dream
We possessed pleasure and the value of its answer
For life
I will hold your youth in my arms for life.

A fisherman was mending his nets in your eyes
Such a beautiful afternoon I am tearing my forehead apart for a dream
I am shaking off all notion of slavery with the help of my hands
All notion of reality which now lays claim to dream

That afternoon
All the afternoons will be saying that afternoon
All of love's kisses will be repeated in that kiss
Latent love made manifest in life

Little hand among all hands destined to serve as light for my destiny
Little dream you go from here to there like lightning rides the eyes of the storm
little dream you take this little hand by the hand
The entire sun was not beyond the cherry for these lips
Therefore the swordsmen forests buried their scythes
In honor of Saint Pol Roux's daughter whose name is Divine
Because even though so little time has lapsed a furious legend has enriched the sea
This solid sea
Without exit


Translated from the Spanish by Beatriz Zeller



PERMISSIONS

"The Enigma's Word" and "The Obvious Sight"
Reprinted from Ludwig Zeller, ed., The Invisible Presence: Sixteen Poets of Spanish America 1925-1995 (Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1996). English language copyright ©1996 by Beatriz Zeller.

December 14, 2008

Michael Boughn


Michael Boughn [b. USA/Canada]
1946

Born and raised in Riverside, California where his great grandparents had settled in the late 19th century, Michael Boughn moved to Canada in October, 1966 to escape the US military draft and to continue organizing against the Viet Nam War. He lived in Vancouver for 7 years. While there he met Robin Blaser who introduced him to the work of William Blake, Charles Olson, H.D., Jack Spicer, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and other crucial contemporary writers, forever changing his life.

In 1971 he left university in order to organize full time. Over the next several years he worked in various jobs, eventually becoming a Teamster in Toronto where he was a freight handler on the lakefront for seven years. In 1978, the U.S. government dropped all charges against him and he returned to California in 1980. He worked for 3 years running a high speed punch press in a metal stamping factory in Silicone Valley, eventually returning to school at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he completed a BA in 1983.


That same year he moved to Buffalo, New York to pursue graduate studies at SUNY Buffalo, where he studied with John Clarke and Robert Creeley and worked in the Poetry/Rare Book Collection. During the next 11 years he completed his PhD, producing the first descriptive bibliography of H.D. (University Press of Virginia, 1993), and worked as a writer, typesetter, and publication designer. In 1993 he returned to Canada where he has lived since, teaching at the University of Toronto, publishing non-fiction for young adults and children, and helping write and produce plays for Toronto’s Clay & Paper Theatre. In 2001 swore allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and became a Canadian citizen. He currently lives in Toronto with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children, Amelia and Sam.

His first book of poems, Iterations of the Diagonal, was published in 1995, followed by A little post-apocalyptic suite for RC with thanks for the rhino (1996), Dislocation Flutter (1998), One’s own MIND (1999), Dislocations in Crystal (2003), and 22 Skidoo (2005), and most recently Ongoing offensive operations to eliminate all pockets of resistance minus one (2005) and Two minus ones (2006). He recently completed the manuscript of a book called SubTractions—Opus minus one. For Clay & Paper he was dramaturge for Lilith Unfair (1999), and co-wrote with David Anderson The Lost City of Wagadu (2000), The Sylliad—My Big Fat Greek War Story (2003), and The Spaces Between (2005).

Boughn’s poetry is cosmological and agitational, seeking in the dislocations of syntactical delirium unlimited possibilities for further experiences of meaning.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Iterations of the Diagonal (Buffalo: Shuffaloff, 1995); A little post-apocalyptic suite for RC with thanks for the rhino (Toronto: fiftyuhthees editions, 1996); Dislocation Flutter (Amman, Jordan: Oasii Press, 1998); One’s own MIND—Fascicle #4 in A Curriculum of the Soul (Canton, New York: Glover Publishing, 1999); Dislocations in Crystal (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2003); 22 Skidoo (Toronto: Shuffaloff, 2005)


Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006

from 22 Skidoo

Golly

“Golly!”
—Katherine Hepburn


Golly it’s swell
to canoodle surpasses

skedaddle’s oomph
in lost appeal to delight’s

distant dream of approval’s
persuasive dialectics

a smackeroo to beat
the band but not up

there, as golly gives us in Kate’s
breathless surprise, another

unknown origin pulling us
neither there nor there but

and as it piles on
showdowns and oodles headed

nowhere fast and not
afraid of any thyroid’s ineffable

fluctuations in the image
of wagon’s mode

of transport imprints
on coots death of berry

picking’s augmented
pain in the tush

____
Reprinted from First Intensity, no. 20 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Michael Boughn.

Peter Jay Shippy

Peter Jay Shippy [USA]
1961

Peter Jay Shippy was born in Niagara Falls, New York. He was raised on his family’s apple farm, on the shore of Lake Ontario. He was educated at Northwestern University, Emerson College and the University of Iowa, where he received an M.F.A.


Shippy’s first book, Thieves’ Latin (University of Iowa Press) won the 2002 Iowa Poetry Prize. BlazeVOX Books published Alphaville in 2006. About Thieves’ Latin, Bin Ramke, editor of the Denver Quarterly wrote, “Shippy’s strange little machines of words are all kinetic, disturbing, and weirdly graceful, unlike anything else available in American poetry.

His work has been published in numerous journals, including The American Poetry Review, Fence, FIELD, The Iowa Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and Ploughshares, among others. Shippy has been awarded writing fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at Emerson College and lives with his wife in Jamaica Plain, MA.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Thieves’ Latin (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2003); Alphaville (Buffalo: BlazeVOX Books, 2006)





Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006


from Alphaville

17

Luna moths,
nightglow, orange
pekoe, quayside,
red spiders
tat, undulant
velocipedes weave
xenias.
Years zeroize.
Zills yearn.
Xuzhou
weeps vines.
Umbrella trees
stalk,
raining quirks.

______
Reprinted from Aught, no. 15 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Peter Jay Shippy.

Robert Frost


Robert Frost [USA]
1874-1963

It is somewhat ironic that this poet—the personification of the New England voice in poetry—was born in San Francisco, and spent his first eleven years in the West Coast urban environment. His mother, Isabelle Moodie, was a Scottish immigrant, raised with relations in Ohio. Frost’s father, William Prescott Frost, was born in New Hampshire, but had left it at an early age, traveling south to fight under Robert E. Lee for the Confederacy; he was arrested in Philadelphia and sent home, but named his son, Robert Lee in honor of the Confederate soldier. The father worked in journalist and politics, dying suddenly in 1885, when Frost was eleven, of tuberculosis.

With no where to turn for financial help, Isabelle was forced to take her family East to live with her husband’s parents, and for the next decade Robert would grow up in poverty in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The very fact that he was an outsider to New England, experiencing the landscape for the first time at an impressionable age, accounts, perhaps, for his later immersion in the culture and landscape of the area.

Frost graduate high school as a co-valedictorian with Elinor White, whom he would marry three years later. Throughout high school he had been a highly competitive young man, and he had now been promised support to attend college at Dartmouth. But after only the first semester there, he dropped out, the desire to achieve—including his goal of becoming a famous author—seeming to have left him; for the rest of his life, he would work only enough to provide the bare necessities to his wife and family.

Frost began by teaching school and writing, sending out poems in large quantities, but it took him nearly 23 years before he had a few poems accepted. During that period he also accepted his grandfather’s support and attended Harvard to two years, from 1897-1899. During those years, Frost had been well-trained in the classics, science and philosophy, but he feared that he would be forced to teach and become a “professional.”

Again with his grandfather’s help, he acquired a small farm in Derry, New Hampshire in 1900, where, with his wife and four children, he attempted farming. However, since he often slept until noon and shirked his farming duties, he was unsuccessful. From 1900 to 1911 he taught at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, and then taught psychology for a year at the State Normal School in Plymouth.

With his wife’s insistence, they sold the farm in 1912, traveling to England and moving into a farmstead in the country. There he met several of the so-called Georgian poets of England, Wilfred W. Gibson, Lascelles Abercrombie, Edward Thomas, and Rupert Brooke. In 1913 a small British publisher issued A Boy’s Will to some acclaim, and the following year he published North of Boston. Both books were published soon after in the United States.

Traveling to London, Frost met several of the influential modernist figures living there, including Ezra Pound (who had helped Frost’s first volume receive critical commentary), W. B. Yeats, Ford Madox Ford, and Robert Bridges. But it was Edward Thomas with whom he developed the closest friendship, one that was to last the rest of their lives.

Upon the publication of his books in the US, Frost is alleged to have said to his wife, “My book has gone home; we must go too.” In 1915 they again settled on a New Hampshire farm, this time near Franconia, where he wrote Mountain Interval in 1916.

The same year he became the poet in residence at Amherst College, and he would return there for a period during the winter for the next four years. During this same period he also lectured at Wesleyan, Michigan, Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard, and, in 1920, helped to found the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont. In 1923 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of poetry, New Hampshire, and he won a second Pulitzer in 1930 for his Collected Poems. A Further Range of 1936 garnered the same award.

Despite the public appearances and success, however, Frost continued to retreat from social life, and, despite a deep love between him and his wife, he further insulated himself in his melancholic aloofness. He had blamed his failure to call a doctor for the death by typhoid fever of his first son, and when his wife grew ill in 1938, asked her to call for him as a sign of forgiveness. Despite his vigil outside her room, she never called, slipping into unconsciousness and death. When his son, Carol, committed suicide two years later, Frost became only more deeply isolated emotionally.

Throughout his last years, Frost achieved greater and greater public acclaim, writing verse plays in 1940s and publishing a new collection, In a Clearing, as late as a year before his death. By that time Frost was perceived as a sort of national treasure, with then-President Kennedy speaking of his work as among his favorites. But, despite his popularity, which continues even today, Frost never really assimilated the lessons of American modernism, preferring to write in the narrative tradition and in rhymed, metered lines, likening poetry written without these elements as being akin to playing tennis without a net.


BOOKS OF POETRY

A Boy’s Will (London: David Nutt, 1913/New York: Holt, 1915); North of Boston (London: David Nutt, 1914/New York: Holt, 1914); Mountain Interval (New York: Holt, 1916); Selected Poems (New York: Holt, 1923); New Hampshire (New York: Holt, 1923/London: Grant Richards, 1924); Several Short Poems (New York: Holt, 1924); Selected Poems (New York: Holt, 1928); West-Running Brook (New York: Holt, 1929); The Lovely Shall Be Choosers (New York: Random House, 1929); Collected Poems of Robert Frost (New York: Holt, 1930/London: Longmans, Green, 1930); The Lone Striker (New York: Knopf, 1933); Selected Poems: Third Edition (New York: Holt, 1934); Three Poems (Baker Library, 1935); The Gold Hesperidee (Bibliophile Press, 1935); From Snow to Snow (New York: Holt, 1936); A Further Range (New York: Holt, 1936/London: Cape, 1937); Collected Poems of Robert Frost (New York: Holt, 1939/London: Longmans, Green, 1939); A Witness Tree (New York: Holt, 1942/London: Cape, 1943); Steeple Bush (New York: Holt, 1947); Complete Poems of Robert Frost, 1949 (New York: Holt, 1949/London: Cape, 1951); Hard Not To Be King (House of Books, 1951); Aforesaid (New York: Holt, 1954); A Remembrance Collection of New Poems (New York: Holt, 1959); You Come TooY (New York: Holt, 1959/ London: Bodley Head, 1964); In the Clearing (New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1962); The Poetry of Robert Frost (New York, 1969)


Storm Fear

When the wind works against us in the dark,
And pelts with snow
The lower chamber window on the east,
And whispers with a sort of stifled bark,
The beast,
“Come out! Come out!”—
It costs no inward struggle not to go,
Ah, no!
I count our strength,
Two and a child,
Those of us not asleep subdued to mark
How the cold creeps as the fire dies at length,--
How drifts are piled,
Door yard and road ungraded,
Till even the comforting barn grows far away,
And my heart owns a doubt
Whether ‘tis in us to arise with day
and save ourselves unaided.

(from A Boy’s Will, 1913)


Mowing

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

(from A Boy’s Will, 1913)



Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hungers is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To lease the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
to each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We ear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’[s saying,
And he likes having through of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

(from North of Boston, 1914)


The Death of the Hired Man

Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. "Silas is back."
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. "Be kind," she said.
She took the market things from Warren's arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.

"When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I'll not have the fellow back," he said."
I told him so last haying, didn't I?
'If he left then,' I said, 'that ended it.'
What good is he? Who else will harbor him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there's no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.'
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
So he won't have to beg and be beholden.'
'All right,' I say, 'I can't afford to pay
Any fixed wages, though I wish I could.'
'Someone else can.' 'Then someone else will have to.'
I shouldn't mind his bettering himself
If that was what it was. You can be certain,
When he begins like that, there's someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket-money,—
In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I'm done."

"Sh! not so loud: he'll hear you," Mary said.

"I want him to: he'll have to soon or late."
"He's worn out. He's asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowe's I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn't smile—I didn't recognize him—
I wasn't looking for him—and he's changed.
Wait till you see."

["Where did you say he'd been?"

"He didn't say. I dragged him to the house,
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off."
"What did he say? Did he say anything?"
"But little."


["Anything? Mary, confess
He said he'd come to ditch the meadow for me."

"Warren!"

["But did he? I just want to know."

"Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldn't grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
He added, if you really care to know,
He meant to clear the upper pasture, too.
That sounds like something you have heard before?
Warren, I wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times—he made me feel so queer—
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilson—you remember—
The boy you had in haying four years since.
He's finished school, and teaching in his college.
Silas declares you'll have to get him back.
He says they two will make a team for work:
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely lad, though daft
On education—you know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun,
Silas up on the cart to build the load,
Harold along beside to pitch it on."

"Yes, I took care to keep well out of earshot."

"Well, those days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn't think they would. How some things linger!
Harold's young college boy's assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathize. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late.
Harold's associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harold's saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked it—that an argument!
He said he couldn't make the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong—
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay—"

"I know, that's Silas' one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big birds' nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He's trying to lift, straining to lift himself."

"He thinks if he could teach him that, he'd be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world.
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silas, so concerned for other folk,
And nothing to look backward to with pride,
And nothing to look forward to with hope,
So now and never any different."

Part of a moon was falling down the west,
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harp-like morning-glory strings,T
aut with the dew from garden bed to eaves,
As if she played unheard the tenderness
That wrought on him beside her in the night.
"Warren," she said, "he has come home to die:
You needn't be afraid he'll leave you this time."

"Home," he mocked gently.

["Yes, what else but home?

It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he's nothing to us, any more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail."

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in."

["I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve."

Warren leaned out and took a step or two,
Picked up a little stick, and brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
"Silas has better claim on us you think
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt today.
Why didn't he go there? His brother's rich,
A somebody—director in the bank."

"He never told us that."

["We know it though."

"I think his brother ought to help, of course.
I'll see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him in, and might be willing to—
He may be better than appearances.
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If he'd had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother,
He'd keep so still about him all this time?"

"I wonder what's between them."

["I can tell you.
Silas is what he is—we wouldn't mind him—
But just the kind that kinsfolk can't abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don't know why he isn't quite as good
As anyone. He won't be made ashamed
To please his brother, worthless though he is."

"I can't think Si ever hurt anyone."

"No, but he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.
He wouldn't let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there to-night.
You'll be surprised at him—how much he's broken.
His working days are done; I'm sure of it."

"I'd not be in a hurry to say that."

"I haven't been. Go, look, see for yourself.
But, Warren, please remember how it is:
He's come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustn't laugh at him.
He may not speak of it, and then he may.
I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon."

[It hit the moon.
Then there were three there, making a dim row,
The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.
Warren returned--too soon, it seemed to her,
Slipped to her side, caught up her hand and waited.
"Warren," she questioned.

["Dead," was all he answered.

(from North of Boston, 1914)

After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep

(From North of Boston, 1914)



The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I.I
took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(from Mountain Interval, 1916)



Birches

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

(from Mountain Interval, 1916)

The Cow in Apple Time

Something inspires the only cow of late
To make no more of a wall than an open gate,
And think no more of wall-builders than fools.
Her face is flecked with pomace and she drools
A cider syrup. Having tasted fruit,
She scores a pasture withering to the root.
She runs from tree to tree where lie and sweeten
The windfalls spiked with stubble and worm-eaten.
She leaves them bitten when she has to fly.
She bellows on a knoll against the sky.
Her udder shrivels and the milk goes dry.

(from Mountain Interval, 1916)