Posts Tagged ‘ poet ’

▶ Magdalena Zurawski by POG: Poetry in Action!

Only Voice Remains Film on Vimeo

Interchange – The Unknown Knowns of Cultural Diplomacy – WFHB

Richard Wright (left) and fellow delegates at the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists, Paris, 1956.

For today’s episode producer Bella Bravo spoke with poet Juliana Spahr about her book, Du Bois’s Telegram: Literary Resistance and State Containment. This close study of how state interests have shaped contemporary U.S. literature was published by Harvard University Press in 2018.

In Du Bois’s Telegram, Spahr investigates the relationship between politics and art. Her research focuses on the institutional forces at work during three moments in U.S. literature that sought to defy political orthodoxies through challenging linguistic conventions: first, the avant-garde modernism of the early twentieth century; second, the resistance-movement writing of the 1960s and 1970s; and, finally, in the twenty-first century, the abundance of English-language works integrating languages other than English.


Source: Interchange – The Unknown Knowns of Cultural Diplomacy – WFHB

#11 decembrance 2018 – Rough Ideas

A New Poet
Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don’t see

its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day – the odor of truth
and of lying.

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dreams there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

– Linda Pastan

Source: #11 decembrance 2018 – Rough Ideas

Their Own Pantheon: Sean Bonney Interviewed – BOMB Magazine

Photo of Sean Bonney courtesy of Commune Editions.

The late poet on his artistic influences, leftist politics, and reading to anarcho-punks.

Source: Their Own Pantheon: Sean Bonney Interviewed – BOMB Magazine

Zeitgeist Spam: So long, Sean. A few lines of yours to see you out … w/love


Source: Zeitgeist Spam: So long, Sean. A few lines of yours to see you out … w/love

American Poetry Review – Poems


A big literary conference is probably not the best place for a poet dealing with a mental breakdown. But there I was at AWP, skittishly perusing tables at the book fair, under the garish lights of the Minneapolis Convention Center. For two years, paralyzed by depression and anxiety, I was barely able to leave my apartment. Staying inside was also a problem because the TV, phone and microwave seemed to be emitting high-pitched whines. I’d contemplated suicide. But with the help of my husband, a good shrink and poetry, I was slowly recovering. I still wasn’t 100% myself, but just being in that crowd felt like a great victory.


At the Tavern Books table, I picked up a poetry collection with a striking title: The Fire’s Journey. As I paged through it, I read these words:


I cast myself in a hollow of shadow

from the highest contour of the blood


from the skin to the light entering through dawn

climbing up through the syllable



The voice, a combination of Sappho, Dickinson, Whitman and Blake, felt both ancient and contemporary. The poet told how creation began with sacred speech from the mouth of a poet-god. Then, like a shaman, the deity embarked upon a perilous Underworld journey to bring back wisdom and healing to humanity. I was especially attracted to the idea of descending into darkness for the benefit of others. I’d walked my own painful path; what knowledge could I share?


I looked at the cover again: The Fire’s Journey by Eunice Odio.


I’d never heard of her. A quick search on my phone revealed a stunning, movie star face: long dark hair framing a high forehead, eyebrows like black wings above fierce, luminous eyes. A visionary. However, her biography told a different story. Born in 1919, Odio was “the mother of Costa Rican poetry in the twentieth century.” But her work never saw publication in her home country until after she’d died, alone and undiscovered for days, in Mexico City at age 54. There were only a few examples of her work on the Internet, despite an impressive publication record. The book I’d just been reading was making its English language debut, the first volume of a 456-page epic that Odio had completed in 1957. As a poet myself, I felt desperate to know this brilliant, neglected woman — and how she’d come to that tragic end.


Back home in Brooklyn, I obsessively Googled. I ordered anthologies of Latin-American poetry and source books of Spanish-American women writers. As I researched Odio, I was shocked to discover many other talented female poets who’d suffered similar fates. Paging through one anthology I found the work of Delmira Agustini, shot by her estranged husband (who then turned the pistol on himself) in a hotel room in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1914.  She was only 27. She’d published her first collection at 21, and was praised by critics of the time (for her beauty as much as for her work). Her poem “Lo inefable” (“The Ineffable”) struck me:


Have you never endured a star like a white dwarf

inside you that gives no light but entirely consumes?



Those lines described exactly how I’d felt during my breakdown.


In the same book I came across this biographical note for Alfonsina Storni:


“Depressed and in bad health, she walked into the sea in October 1938.”


She was 46. Born in Switzerland in 1892, she’d come to Argentina with her Swiss-Italian parents when she was three. Her first book was published when she was only 24. Like Agustini, she’d frankly depicted female desire and depression. Pages later, I read the lyrics to “Gracias a la vida” (“Here’s to Life”) by Violeta Parra, born in Chile in 1917. The version in the anthology was co-translated by Joan Baez. An activist like Baez, Parra had collected and performed Chilean folk songs. She toured Europe for four years, introducing her audiences to regional singers and local customs. In 1963 she founded a performance space in Santiago called La Carpa de La Reina — the Queen’s Tent. The following year, she became the first Latin-American artist to have a solo exhibition of her paintings, sculptures and arpilleras (patchwork pictures constructed from scraps of cloth and burlap) at the Museum of Decorative Arts of the Louvre. Unfortunately, the public’s response to the Queen’s Tent was not positive. Feeling abandoned, Parra shot herself in the head in 1967, in the space she’d created.


I had to close the book. I was reminded, of course, of Plath and Sexton, but I’d personally known poets like that. My best friend Lydia Tomkiw passed away in 2007, alone like Odio, of alcoholism. We’d met in a college poetry class, back in Chicago. Together, we plotted our rise to literary fame, sent work out, and gave readings. We’d even hatched a scheme to kidnap Allen Ginsberg, to get ourselves on the cover of Time magazine. (When we met him at a reading, and told him about our idea, he was all for it. Too bad we didn’t have a plan.) But we grew apart when her drinking began to consume her life. I’d always wondered whether it was artistic sensitivity that created the conditions for depression, or was depression the gateway to great art. And why did women seem to succumb more than men?


I also wondered: How had I survived, when they hadn’t?


The answer was obvious. I had things they lacked: monetary resources, medical information, love. I wanted to embrace these lost sisters, tell them they’d never be forgotten because they’d managed to flood the world — or at least my world — with beauty. During my breakdown, poetry had sustained me. Now, I realized, I had a debt to repay.


I got up and Googled Delmira Agustini’s face, printed the image, and pasted it in the anthology next to her selection. I did the same with Odio, Storni and Parra. I read their work, stared into their eyes, and made notes. I compiled everything I could find on the Internet about them, and ordered more books. I felt like I was following a breadcrumb trail: the more I read, the more women I discovered. Soon, I had a growing stack of books next to my reading chair and a list of “under known” women poets from throughout the Americas, from Canada to Uruguay. I wrote in a fever pitch — poems that incorporated details of their lives, that spoke directly to them. At times, I could feel my language blurring into theirs. It was the only thing I wanted to do, and I rose at dawn every day and wrote for hours. I hadn’t written that much since before my breakdown. One day I realized I was creating a new manuscript, one poem for each woman. I decided to include their biographies and call it (after a line by Agustini) Even Living Makes Me Die. I would honor them using the art form we shared. Because they’d descended to the depths and never returned. Because I did. Because through their work they’d brought back knowledge that speaks to us in difficult times — that poetry is a long conversation with wise friends over time, a kind of justice, a kind of peace. Because they never knew they had done that.


Sharon Mesmer

Published in American Poetry Review – Volume 48  |  No. 06

Source: American Poetry Review – Poems