January 11, 2015

Rochelle Owens (USA) 1936

Rochelle Owens (USA)
Rochelle Owens was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 2, 1936, the daughter of Maxwell and Molly (Adler) Bass. As a native New Yorker, Owens studied at the New School for Social Research (now The New School) before attending the University of Montreal.
     After a brief marriage to David Owens, she married poet George Economou on June 17, 1962.
     Her first work of poetry, Not Be Essence That Cannot Be was published by Trobar in 1961; over the next few years, Owens would devote more of her time to drama, writing several plays that helped to establish her as a pioneer in the experimental Off-Broadway Theater. In 1965, her The String Game was performed at Judson Poet’s Theatre (published by Methuen in 1969), and the same year, the Tyrone Guthrie Workshop Theatre in Minneapolis and Café La Mama Theatre in New York presented what came to be her best known work, Futz. Since its premiere, that play has become an underground classic of the American avant-garde and an international success. Toronto banned it, an Edinburgh paper dubbed it "lust and bestiality play," but New Yorkers queued around the block when it was first produced in the sixties. In 1969, it was made into a film, which has attained a cult following.

Numerous other plays followed, including Homo (1966), Beclch (1968), He Wants Shih (1971), Farmer’s Almanac (1971), The Karl Marx Play (1973), Emma Instigated Me (1976), Who Do You Want, Peire Vidal? (1982); Chucky’s Hunch (1981), along with several others.
     Meanwhile, she continued to publish poetry, several of her early books attaining notable attention, including Salt and Core, I Am the Babe of Joseph Stalin’s Daughter: Poems 1961-71, Poems from Joe’s Garage, The Joe Eight-Two Creation Poems, The Joe Chronicles II, Constructs, W. C. Fields in French Light, and How Much Paint Does the Painting Need. More recent works include Black Chalk, Rubbed Stones and Other Poems, New and Selected Poems, Luca, Discourse On Life And Death, and Out of Ur: New & Selected Poems 1961-2012.
    Her work has also appeared in a wide of range of anthologies of drama and poetry. She has also written a fiction, Journey to Purity (2009).
    Owens has won many awards, grants, and honors, including Village Voice Obie Awards (in 1965, 1967, 1982), a Guggenheim Fellowship, a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, a Rockefeller Fellowship at Bellagio, and an ASCAP Award.
    Owens has taught at Brown University, the University of California-San Diego, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette).
     She currently lives in Philadelphia and Wellfleet, Massachusetts.  


Not Be Essence That Cannot Be (New York: Trobar. 1961); Salt and Core (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press. 1968); I Am the Babe of Joseph Stalin's Daughter: Poems, 1961-71 (New York: Kulchur Press, 1972); Poems from Joe’s Garage (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck Press, 1973); The Joe 82 Creation Poems (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1973); The Joe Chronicles II (Santa Barbara, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1979); Shemuel (St. Paul, Minnesota: New Rivers Press, 1979); French Light (Press with the Flexible Voice, 1984); Constructs (Poetry Around, 1985); Anthropologists at a Dinner Party (Tucson, Arizona: Chax Press, 1985); W. C. Fields in French Light (New York: Contact 2 Press, 1986); How Much Paint Does the Painting Need (New York: Kulchur Press, 1988); Black Chalk (Norman, Oklahoma: Texture Press, 1992); Rubbed Stones and Other Poems (Norman, Oklahoma: Texture Press, 1994); New and Selected Poems 1961-1996 (San Diego: Junction Press, 1997); Luca, Discourse on Life and Death (San Diego: Junction Press, 2000); Triptych (San Diego: Texture Press, 2006); Solitary Workwoman (New York: Junction Press, 2011); Out of Ur: New and Selected Poems 1961-2012 (Emerson’s Green, Bristol, U.K.: Shearsman Books, 2013).

To hear Owens reading from her own work in several recordings, go here:

January 10, 2015

José María Eguren (Peru) 1874-1942

José María Eguren (Peru)
 Born on July 7, 1874 in Lima, Peru, José María Eguren is today considered the founding leader of Peruvian post-modernist poetry.

Already in his first book of poetry, Simbólicas (1911), Eguren broke with the Modernismo tradition, while maintaining links with the Romantic and early French Symbolist poets. His fantastic creations represented an attempt to escape realist conventions and enter an imagined world peopled with pre-surrealist-like dreams and nightmares in which the characters inhabited a visually rich tapestry.
     His second poetry collection, La canción de las figuras (1916, The Ballad of the Figures) included highly personal and hermetic poems, but also continued in the symbolist tradition.
     Although Eguren promoted the young Vallejo early in his career, with the publication of that poet’s Trilce, the symbolist vanguardist work of Eguren suddenly seemed dated, and his poetry, although still admired for its technical qualities, seemed out of the touch with social concerns of the day. In 1929, the communist editor José Carlos Maritátegui published a collection of Eguren’s poems, Poesías.
     Eguren also wrote prose criticism, collected in Motivos estéticos (Aesthetic motifs), published in 1959), painted water colors, and took photographs.


Simbólicas (1911); La canción de las figuras (1916); Poesías (1929); Poesías completes (Lima: 1952); Obras completes (Lima: Mosca Azul Editores, 1974)


Selection in Stephen Tapscott, ed., Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

The Dead

The snow-covered dead
under a sad sky
pass along the avenue of pain
that never ends.

They go with the wandering forms
along the silent auras
and from dead they give the cold
to the willows and the irises.

Slowly they shine white
on the desolate road;
and they long for the daytime parties
and the loves of their lives.

When walking, the dead
search for hope;
they look only at the scythe,
their sad shapes absorbed in thought.

In the desolate night of the mists,
and in the prison, in the terror,
the distant walkers pass along
on the unending road

—Translated from the Spanish by Iver Lofving

The Girls in the Light

The girls in the light
who revolve around the sun
and laugh
like changeable stones,
they travel on the harmonious cloud.
The girls in the light;
with albino tresses
and flushed faces,
they swim in the sparkling granite.
From a red cloud
their flight secures
a landing
where colorful notes
die in the remote storm-clouds.
The girls of the light
who revolve around the sun
and smile.       

  —Translated from the Spanish by Iver Lofving

English language translation ©1993 by Iver Lofving. Reprinted from Stephen Tapscott, ed., Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Herbert Zand (Austria) 1923-1970

Herbert Zand (Austria)
Born in Bad Aussee, the son of a farmer, Herbert Zand served in the Army in World War II, when he was seriously wounded on the Russian front.
     After the war, Zand worked as a publisher’s assistant, and later began writing. He started as a novelist, publishing his first fiction in 1947, and by 1961 had written three other titles, followed by his renowned fiction Erben des Feuers (Otto Müller) (Heritage of fire), which was highly critical of post-war Austrian society. The fiction was published in English as The Last Sortie, the Story of the Cauldron by R. Hart-Davis in London in 1955. A new translation, Legacy of Ashes appeared on Ariadne Press in the U.S. in 2001.

He also wrote poetry, his most notable work being Die Blaskugel (The Crystal Ball), a collection which appeared in 1953. His complete works were published as Gesammelte Werke, complied by Wolfgang Kraus in six volumes, published by Europa Verlag in 1973. 
   Zand died of the war injuries he had received years earlier, in 1970.


Die Blaskugel (Vienna: Donau-Verlag, 1953); Aus zerschossenem Sonnegeflecht. Gedichte, ed. by Wolfgang Kraus (Vienna: Europa Verlag, 1973)
Selection in Austrian Poetry Today, edited and translated by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner (New York: Schocken Books, 1983; selection in Beth Bjorklund, ed. Contemporary Austrian Poetry in Translation: An Anthology (Teaneck, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1986)
Dreams, Your Time Hasn’t Come
Dreams, you time hasn’t come.
Your time will be like yesterday,
when you wake up one morning in a strange city,
when you wake up in a strange home,
when you wake up with a name
that’s called despair, or perhaps patience.
Dreams, it’s still too early, too late.
It isn’t yet the time of many suns,
not the time of the hemlocks;
now is the time for bees to collect honey,
not the time for marriage-flight.
—Translated from the German by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner
My Whole Life Long
My whole life long
I’ve tried
to understand a few things;
calm confidence,
the power of love,
the power of free choice,
and the power of the word
when used.
I know that there is happiness,
and that there is sadness,
and I fold up papers,
and I close books,
they don’t tell me enough.
They call things by name.
I’m now on the track of other things,
that have no name,
between happiness and sadness,
between joy and pain,
all the nameless things
which are as mute as at time’s beginning.
—Translated from the German by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner

They are more beautiful than domestic animals,
and more delicate,
without trust, born
to be in flight for a lifetime,
in freeze to death in the snow
at dawn in January.
Sometimes they are brought into the village on sleds.
Heads hanging down. Resting in utterly
horrible beauty.
Children turn away from this sight,
as if they were demons in a play, even more terrifying
than the giants in fairy tales, and could
ruin their lives. Women
turn away. Blood. The branch of a fir tree.
This is their death.

If they could, they would leave this earth
for other planets,
where there are countless trees and mild winters.
They would wander lonely fields
grazing in the silver dew where the moon goes pale.
And the wind rushing from the forests would never bring
the scent of danger.

 —Translated from the German by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner
English language copyright ©1983 by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner. Poems reprinted from Austrian Poetry Today, edited and translated by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner (New York: Schocken Books, 1983.

Yehuda Amichai (Israel) 1924-2000

Yehuda Amichai [Ludwig Pfeuffer] (Israel)

Yehuda Amichai (Ludwig Pfeuffer) was born in Würzburg Germany, to an Orthodox Jewish family, on May 3, 1924. At the age of 11 Amichai immigrated with his family to Petah Tikva in Mandate Palestine in 1935, moving to Jerusalem in 1936.

The young poet attended a religious high school in Jerusalem, Ma’aleh. He served as a member of the Palmach, the strike force of the defense force of the Jewish community before volunteering in World War II as a member of the British Army, and later served in the Negev on the southern front in the Israeli War of Independence.
     After being discharged from the British Army in 1946, Amichai became a student at the David Yellin Teachers College in Jerusalem, becoming a teacher in Haifa. After the War of Independence, he studied Bible and Hebrew Literature at the University of Jerusalem, encouraged by one of his professors to pursue poetry. In 1955 he published is first book of poetry, Akhshav uva-yamin ha-aherim (1955, Now and in Other Days). 
    In 1956 Amichai once again went to war, serving in the Sinai War. We would later serve also in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
     He published his first novel in 1963, Not of This Time, Not of This Place, which concerns a young man, like himself, who returns to Germany and tries to make sense of the Holocaust. His second work of fiction, Mi Yiteni Malon concerns an Israeli poet living in New York, and was published while the author was serving as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
     Amichai wrote numerous books of poetry, insisting that all of his work was political:

                  This is because real poems deal with a human
                  response to reality, and politics is part of reality,
                  history in the making. Even if a poet writes about
                  sitting in a glass house drinking tea, it reflects

Critics have noted that Amichai’s early poems bear some of the influences of Dylan Thomas and W. H. Auden, but Rainer Maria Rilke later became a great force on his writing. Yet, his poetry, influenced as it is by both German and Hebrew, uses the expressive sounds of Hebrew, playing with Hebrew puns and invented words, and his work is recognized as standing alone in its expression.
     Amichai’s poetry has been acclaimed worldwide, and he has won numerous awards throughout his long career. Among his honors was the Brenner Prize in 1969, the Bialik Prize for Literature (1976), the Würzburg Prize for Culture (1981), the Israel Prize for Hebrew Poetry (1982), the Agnon Prize (1986), the Malraux Prize of the International Book Fair in France (1994), the Literary Lion Award in New York (1994), the Norwegian Bjørnson Poetry Award (1996), and others. Nearly all of his work has been translated into English.
     Amichai died of cancer, at the age of 76, in 2000.


Akhshav uva-yamin ha-aherim (Tel-Aviv, 1955); Ba-ginah he-tsiburit (Jerusalem, Akhshav, 1958); Be-merhak shete tikvot (Tel-Aviv, 1958); Shirim, 1948-1962 (Jerusalem: Shoken, 1962-63); Be-lo ‘al menat li-zekor (1971); Me-ahore kol zeh mistater osher gado (Jerusalem: Shoken, 1974)


Selected Poems, trans. by Assia Gutmann (New York: Cape Goliard Press, 1968 / reprinted as Poems (New York: Harper, 1969); Selected Poems of Yehuda Amichai, trans by Assia Gutmann, Harold Schimmel, and Ted Hughes (London: Penguin, 1971 / reprinted as The Early Books of Yehuda Amichai (Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York: Sheep Meadow Press, 1968); Songs of Jerusalem and Myself, trans. by Harold Schimmel (New York: Harper, 1973); Travels of a Latter-Day Benjamin of Tudela, trans. by Ruth Nevo (Toronto, Canada: House of Exile, 1976); Amen, trans. by Amichai and Ted Hughes (New York: Harper, 1977); On New Year’s Day, Next to a House Being Built (Knotting, England: Sceptre Press, 1979); Time: Poems (New York: Harper, 1979); Love Poems, trans. by Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt (New York: Harper, 1981); Travels, trans. by Ruth Nevo (Philadelphia: Sheep Meadow Press, 1986); The Selected Poetry of Yehudah Amichai, trans. by Mitchell and Chana Bloch (New York: Haprer, 1986 / revised and expanded ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996); Poems of Jerusalem (New York: Harper, 1986); Even a Fist Was Once an Open Palm with Fingers: Recent Poems, trans. by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav (New York: HaperCollins, 1991); Poems of Jerusalem and Love Poems (Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York: Sheep Meadow Press, 1992); I am Sitting Here Now (Huntington Woods, Michigan: Land Marks Press, 1994); Poems: English and Hebrew (Jerusalem: Shoken, 1994); Yehuda Amachai: A Life of Poetry, 1948-1994, trans. by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav (New York: HarperCollins, 1994); The Great Tranquility: Questions and Answers, trans. by Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt (Riverdale-on-Hudson, New York: Sheep Meadow Press, 1997); Exile at Home (with photographs by Frederic Brenner) (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998); Open Close Open: Poems, trans by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld (New York: Harcourt, 2000)

For a large selection of poems by Yehuda Amichai, go here:

Zinaida Nikolaevna Gippius (Russia/USSR) 1869-1945

Zinaida Nikolaevna Gippius (Russia/USSR)

Born in Belev, in the region of Tula, in Russia, on November 20, 1869, Zinaida Gippius (also transliterated as Hippius) was the eldest of four daughters of the super-procurator of the St. Petersburg Senate, Nikolai Romanovich Gippius.
     After her father’s death in 1881, which caused a deep depression for his daughter, Gippius’ mother moved the family to Moscow and eventually to Tbilisi (Tiflis). As a young girl, Gippius was educated at home, and was already a published poet by the time that she entered the Kiev Institute for Noble Girls, and later, the Fisher Private Classic School in Moscow.
     In 1888 Gippius met the poet and writer Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky, founder of the modernist movement of Russian literature, whom she married a year later. Although their literary careers developed independently, they shared political, philosophical and religious viewpoints. 
    Upon their marriage, the couple traveled to Crimea, returning to St. Petersburg and moving into a flat that came to be known as Muruzi House, which Merezhkovsky’s mother had rented and furnished for them as a wedding gift.

Gippius saw her poetic role as one of “inspiration.” She herself admitted her persona to Valery Bryusov, “By the year 1880 I was writing verses, being so great a believer in “inspiration” as to make a point to never take a pen off paper. People around me saw these poems as a sign of me being ‘spoiled,’ but I never tried to conceal them and, of course, I wasn’t spoiled at all, what with my religious upbringing.

    Since Gippius was better known as prose writer, she and her husband made a pact that they would each devote themselves to their preferred genre, she writing prose, he poetry. But Merezhkovsky quickly abandoned that idea when he decided to write a novel, Julian the Apostate. The beautiful Gippius, on the other hand, a remarkable conversationalist, soon became the center of the city’s cultural elite. She joined the Russian Literary Society and became a member of the Shakesperean Circle (whose central figure was the celebrity lawyer Prince Alexander Urusov). Gippius also developed close friendships with several influential beings including Yakov Polonsky, Apollon Maykov, Dimitry Grigorovich, Aleksey Pleshcheyev and Pyotr Veinberg, moving gradually into the Severny Vestnik clique as she began to write poetry. 
     Her first published short stories appeared in 1890-91, followed by a series of longer fictions including Without the Talisman, The Winner, and Small Waves, works which critics described as “stylistically anonymous.” But her poetry was another matter, work that was seemingly more intimate which described as “personal prayers.” Many of these works explored the dark side of the soul, dealing with sexual ambiguity and narcissism, and were described by conservative readers as “blasphemous,” some going so far as to describe the poet as a “demoness” and a “decadent Madonna.” Wear male clothes and using pseudonyms, Gippius carefully cultivated her image as a red-haired, green-eyed androgynous monster/beauty, shocking her guests in her outspoken declarations of sexual liberation.
     Her first book of poetry, The Collected Poems, 1889-1903, appeared, to great critical acclaim in 1904. Valery Bryusov praised the collection for its “insurmountable frankness with which she depict[s] the emotional progress of her enslaved soul.” 
    The Muruzi House quickly gained status as one of Russia’s cultural centers. But although guests delighted in Gippius’ beauty and cultural leadership, few of them, apparently, four her warm or affectionate.

     In the last decade of the century, Gippius and her husband both espoused radical philosophical and religious concepts. Gippius, herself involved with Sergei Diaghhilev’s clique and its Mir iskusstva magazine, popular with the gay community, where she published her essays under the pseudonym Anton Krainy (other pseudonyms included Roman Arensky and Lev Pushchin). Oddly, given her demonic persona, Gippius ideas were centered on a salvation of Russian culture to be attained through its Christianization, an attempt to bring the Church and intelligentsia together. Accordingly, her ideas began to be centered in the concept of a “New Church,” argued by her and Merezhkovsy in their Religious and Philosophical Meetings which took place from 1901-1903, which temporarily attempted to pull Russian culture away from the major social upheavals it was soon to embrace. When Sergei Bulgakov refused to publish her essay on Alexander Blok, however, the group when into demise, with Gippius withdrawing from the spotlight, retreating to what described as her “domestic Church,” a three-part sexual relationship with Merezhkovsky and their close friend Dimtry Filosofov.
     With the “Bloody Sunday” of January 9, 1905, Gippius, formerly disinterested in political activism, suddenly became consumed with concerns for social change, becoming one of the harshest of Tsarist critics. The following year, the couple voluntarily exiled themselves to France to proselytize to Westerners about the new Russian future. During this period, she published several new works, including the collection of stories Scarlet Sword and the play, Poppies Blossom, with Merezhkovsky and Filosfov named as co-writers. The French, however, were indifferent to their ideas, and they returned home to St. Petersburg at a time in which Gippius health had also deteriorated, forcing the group to spend a great deal of their time visiting European health resorts and clinics. During a French visit in 1911, Gippius bought an inexpensive apartment in Paris, which would later serve them as their home.
    Although the political changes in Russia had made their causes more welcome, their attempts to revive the Religious-Philosophical Society, but few of the new political leaders attending their meetings, and the group gradually became another literary clique. In 1910 Grippius published her second collection of poetry The Collection of Poems, No. 2, 1903-1909. During this period she also published further collections of stories and one of her best known books of prose, The Demon Dolls (1911). The Merezhkovskys condemned Russian participation in World War I.
     Although they greeted the 1917 Revolution, they denounced the October coup, seeing it as the end of Russia and the coming of the Kingdom of the Antichrist. Although she was still able to publish some of her anti-Bolshevik verses in the “old” newspapers, it became increasingly clear that the new Russian order had no room for her and Merezhkovsky’s antiquated and somewhat romanticized views. Her Last Poems (1914-1918) was published in 1918, presenting a dark view of revolutionary Russia. By 1919, no longer able to imagine a Bolshevik defeat, the Merezhkovskys and Filosofov began to make plans for their escape.
     Receiving permission from Soviet Commissar Anatoly Lunacharsky to leave the city to lecture on Ancient Egypt to Red Army soldiers, the three, along with Gippius’ secretary Vladimir Zlobin, left for Poland by train through Gomel, Minsk and Vilno. 
    After several months in Warsaw, where Gippius worked as a newspaper editor for Svoboda, Gippius and her husband left for France, leaving Filosofov, who wanted to remain in Poland, behind. Back in France, Gippius attempted again to lecture and write on issues surrounding Russia and freedom, but like so many others before and after her, her subject gradually began to shift to her discomfort and inability to survive as a writer in exile. In the 1920s, her poetry was re-issued in Russia, and new collection of her tales, Words from Heaven, was published in 1921. Another collection of poems, Poems appeared in 1922. A co-authored book by Gippius, Merezhkovsky, Filosofov, and Zlobin, The Kingdom of Antichrist, appeared in Munich.
     In 1928 Merezhkovsky took part in the First Congress of Russian writers in exile held in Belgrade, but by this time Gippius had already begun a long period of depression from which she would never truly recover. Merezhkovsky’s death in 1941, along with Filosofov’s death the year before, Gippius saw herself alone in the world, struggling to regain any strength that remained through writing. She died on September 9, 1945, her last words said to be: “Cheaply do I coast…And wise to God.” She was buried in the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery beside her husband. Among the few who attended her funeral was the writer Ivan Bunin.


Sobranīe stikhov, 1889-1903 (Moscow: Knigozd-vo “Skorpīon, 1904); Sobranīe stikov: kniga vtoraia, 1903-1909 (Moscow: Knigozd-vo “Musaget,” 1910); Stikhotveoreniia I poémy (Munich: W. Fink, 1972); Stikhotvoreniia: Zhivye litsa (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literature, 1991)


Selected Works of Zinaida Hippius (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1972)

For “Three Poems by Zinaida Gippius” go here: