Thursday, August 25, 2016

Not Just Any Moon

Not Just Any Moon

the summer Solstice moon possessed me
nature's rare, majestic orb
in a never ending cycle
spinning my soul ripe for change
why was I out in the woods
powerless to the full moon's glory ?
heart pounding faster than a sane person's would

The moon's beauty unfurled
I merged with it's aura
nature's unharnessed power
man bows down to its radiance

my soul, my love
what happened ?
what force or predator will eventually find me?

It's time to go.... don't look back
the solstice moon my elixir
my savior
the moon beckons, challenges me . " Come dance...I dare you."
Perhaps I'll perish here while the summer solstice moon dazzles,
but for now, I joyfully dance.

Sasha Thurmond 2016

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Sasha Thurmond is a graduate of the Cornell University MFA program where she majored in printmaking. She lives on a farm in South Carolina with her horse and other animals, and sometimes finds time to make art or write poems or stories.

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photo by Sasha Thurmond

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Fiction Asks Us to Remember

Jeanne Mackin

Think of history as narrative. Think of historical fiction as expanded narrative, history with all the trimmings, with cause and effect, speculation, personalization. Think of expanded narrative as the story teller reaching out to you, saying, "pay attention. This is important.” Or as novelist Jeanette Winterson repeats over and over in The Passion, "Trust me. I’m telling you a story," and then as she relates a Napoleonic narrative of a Venetian woman who walks on water, you do believe her even as you know she is lying through her teeth, because that is what novelists do. But this important: you don’t believe that Venetian women necessarily walk on water (though it would be a convenient skill, considering global warming and the state of Venetian canals) but you do believe Winterson’s message that love changes us, that war changes us and that war is not conducive to happy endings, because that is what her story is really about.

We best believe what we remember, and narrative is about memory: giving memories in the form of stories, receiving memories and adding them to our personal stores. But historical fiction, as memory creation, asks us to do the impossible, to remember experiences we can’t possibly have had, to "remember" the smell of the rosebush growing outside Hester Prynne‘s jail in Hawthorne‘s The Scarlet Letter, to remember crouching in darkness outside the mead hall, the perpetual outsider, as John Gardner’s Grendel does; to remember the sensation of the earthquake that begins the action of Richard Hughes’ A High Wind in Jamaica; to remember the wild vines strangling the decaying plantation in Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. All of those things were before our times; yet having read them, we remember them.

There is a relationship between memory and freedom, asserts Dr. Chris Nunn, author of De La Mettrie’s Ghost: the Story of Decisions. Nunn examines free will and the decision making process and ultimately concludes that “stories…are the mediators of free choice.” He argues that people whose ‘memories are more malleable should, other things being equal, be less prone to conditions like milleniarianism “{belief that the world will end on a given date simply because of the date} and other forms of private or mass delusion. People with flexible memories are less gullible…“thanks to its intimate relationship with the memory process, consciousness can to some extent determine its own future.”
Call me an idealist, but perhaps fiction can prevent us from making even bigger and more dangerous idiots of ourselves than the species already has. Perhaps historical fiction keeps our memories malleable by constantly recreating and adding to those memories; perhaps there is a connection between fiction, memory and freedom. Gardner’s Grendel can be read as an early eco-novel, among other things: “They {man} hacked down trees in widening rings around their central halls and blistered the land with peasant huts and pigpen fences till the forest looked like an old dog dying of mange.”

In Jean Rhys’ postcolonial devastation in Wide Sargasso Sea, the destructive misery of failed empire comes home to roost in a suicidal conflagration: “I got up, took the keys and unlocked the door. I was outside holding my candle. Now at last I know why I was brought here and what I have to do. There must have been a draught for the flame flickered and I thought it was out. But I shielded it with my hand and it burned up again to light me along the dark passage.”

Richard Hughes’ incredibly convincing narrative of the connections between entitlement and violence in A High Wind in Jamaica reveals how a lack of self-responsibility so easily leads to murder and how that violence estranges us: “Mr. Thornton made no attempt to answer her questions: he even shrank back, physically from touching his child Emily.Was it Conceivable she as such an idiot as really not to know what it was all about? Could she possibly not know what she had done? He stole a look at her innocent little face, even the tear-stains now gone. What was he to think?”

Murdered pirates, decaying plantations, mead halls, Napoleon’s roasted chickens…artificial memories bestowed by historical fiction, but who’s to say that an artificial memory is less meaningful than mundane ones? De La Mettrie argues that memories become encoded in neurons and have physical properties, so why can’t the memories acquired in a reading of fiction matter as much as the memory of today’s first cup of coffee and who poured it for you? Read, and remember. Is it possible to also understand something from what is given us by the memories in fiction? “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future,too. We all try to lie out of that but life won’t let us,” Eugene O’Neill tells us in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Perhaps what fiction most asks us to remember is that memory keeps us human, and if we remember enough and remember well, we can add an "e" to human.

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JEANNE MACKIN is the author of seven novels and has published short fiction and creative nonfiction in journals and periodicals including American Letters and Commentary and SNReview. She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and is an award-winning journalist. She has taught English at Ithaca College and creative writing in the MFA Program at Goddard Collage in Vermont and Port Townsend, Washington

Jeanne Mackin's latest book A Lady of Good Family, the story of the early architect Beatrix Farrand and her relationship with her niece, the novelist Edith Wharton is available on Amazon at this link:

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ojo Taiye: A Nigerian Poet

Old songs from afar

in my kraal,
independence is only for the rich
the rest are slaves
earlier it was the British...
now it’s the proboscis of poverty

Latent truth

Papa told us
that the inverse of love
was not animosity:
resultant vector in form
but the ghost of apprehension

Love potion

your love is adder’s tongue
your derriere seduces ants
your firm apples are minarets calling
men to worship
your blue eyes burn prison ribs

your love is poison
you are the fire eroding
forest of puritans
you are the fingers of the night:
gruff wind choking lily blooms

you are hook and fangs
pots of beauty
whose taste
last only like the
wetness of chewing gum
or the belch of stout beers

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Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society. A twenty- three-year-old microbiology graduate from Tansian University, he loves books and Anime in that order. Taiye, has had some of his poetry published or forthcoming in e-magazines such as Kalahari Review, Tuck magazine, Lunaris Review, and whispersinthewind33. 

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Djelloul Marbrook; Three Poems

A shuddering

Here is not as easy to define as there
where imagination is unimpeded
by immediacy, white noise, hard breathing
and the grunt work of getting along,
but here is the dirigible whose mooring lines
we must let go to lift our moment with us
or else cling to captors and adore them.
There are a million ways to shun this
in favor of that and we must abhor them
in favor of spontaneity so sharp
atoms shudder in its proximity, and then,
only then, we dance with what we glimpse at dusk
or when lightning illuminates the woods.
Meanwhile our hankering to define allures us
to hereafters and hereinafters that suck the blood
from the instant that reaches for our hand
to make a circle in a fey and yet familiar place.


I watched her kick the wall for needing repair,
kindred spirit whose sin is being unserviceable.
Break her foot, treacherous wall! Confess
to nothing, not even costing too much. But wait,
her foot's entangled in poison ivy, not Virginia creeper;
that's enough punishment for one day. I'll pretend
to be solicitous, but it's you that has my sympathy,
innocent wall, and if I find any fault with you
it's that you stand in the way of what might be one
to partition us from the object of our longing,
whatever it is, but she wouldn't understand that,
it being so inconvenient. You, surplus to her needs,
stand with me, held up by an invasive species,
not yet allowed to fall down, an object of despair
simply because we require obscene amounts of care.

The suffocating room

A mother wouldn't do this,
not to any woman's child,
unless her demons swallowed his
and she needed to expose her belly
still digesting them, wouldn't,
shouldn't, it doesn't matter
until an explosion more brilliant
than our mother star devours them
and they become pinpricks of light
playing on the skin of innocents
they've yet to meet. Too late,
too late for them all for talk
of sin, redemption, forgiveness,
the usual blather. All that's left
is a sere plain not yet refined
to desert—and an ineradicable sob.

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Djelloul Marbrook’s first book of poems, Far from Algiers, won Kent State University's Stan and Tom Wick Prize in 2007. He is the author of four poetry books and five books of fiction. His fifth book of poems, Riding Thermals to Winter Grounds, is forthcoming from Leaky Boot Press, UK, in late 2016. He lives in the mid-Hudson Valley with his wife Marilyn. 

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Species Specific, a poem

Mike Foldes

If I start with one and end with two,
Or more, then what change took place
Along the way that made the garden
The way it is, a mix of color, tone and hue
Variegated as Belgian lace,
Complex as the art of Zen?

Why not the genome traced to space,
To planets near the edge of time,
Where universal attributes were wrought
In chains, double helix, acid rain.
What form shapes up on its own
After tripping on a Mobius strip?

Why so many kinds of dogs, when
One might be enough? Why hyena,
Wolf and fox, why the boxer, why the lab?
Are we the cancer on the land
That bests the best that have evolved,
Or simply born to save us from ourselves?

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Mike Foldes is the founder and managing editor of Ragazine, an online literary magazine. He is also the author of "Sleeping Dogs, A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping," and "Sandy: Chronicles of a Superstorm," with artist Christine Devereaux." 
Download at www.Smashwords.Com and www.Amazon.Com


Join Mike on MySpace & Facebook

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Friday, June 3, 2016

ALIVE, Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva, 1925

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Alive, it’s not dead,
This demon in me!
In my body as in a cargo-hold,
In myself as in a prison.

All the world’s—walls.
The exit’s—an axe.
(“All the world’s—a stage,”
An actor prattles).

And he wasn’t cunning,
That lame fool.
In the body—as in a rumor,
In the body—as in a toga!

May you live many years!
Alive—value that!
(As only poets do
To the bone—by some lie!)

No, it’s not for us to step out,
My singing brethren,
In the body as in the quilted
Smocks of our father.

Better is what we deserve.
We wither in this warmth.
In the body—as in a close room,
In ourselves—as in a caldera.

We can’t keep the transitory
In the body—as in a swamp,
In the body—as in a vault,

In the body—as in farthest
Exile.—Withered away!
In the body—as in the dark,
In my temples—as in the vise

Of an iron mask.

6 January 1925

* * *

Squeezed into this basin of my
Existence, in this stupor of slackness,
Buried alive under this avalanche
Of days—as if in penal servitude, I let go of life.

These are my winter-quarters, deathly and sealed.
Death:  a hoarfrost on my beautiful lips—
I have no wish for better health
From God or come the spring.

11 January 1925

* * *

What, my Muse?  Is she still alive?
Like one captive taps her comrade
On the ear, the little pit, gouged by a finger
--What my Muse?  Will she be here long?

Neighbors, entangled by their hearts.
Prisoners tapping out their exchanges.

What my Muse?  Is she still alive?
Impossible to tell from the eyes of desire,
What’s true or covered by a smile,
Or by the neighbors, one rack to the right

--What, dear boy?  Did we manage a brief hour?
A wink passed through a sick ward.

Eh, my affairs!  Eh, transparent, if somewhat gauzy!
Like those aerial battles above the Armies,
All scribbled over with summer-lightning slants,
Eyebrows passing flashes.

In a funnel of dissipated haze—
Soldiers passing trash-talking.

Come, my Muse!  A rhyme at least!
Of cheek—like Ilium flaring up—
To cheek:  “No regrets!  Hammering flat
All my connections—Death!  Later, then?”

My sweet death-bed’s—
Last exchange of embraces.

15 January 1925

* * *

Into grey—my temples,
Into a ditch—my soldier,
--Sky!—like the sea I bleed into you.
So with every syllable—
At your secret glance
I turn,
I primp.

Into a skirmish—my Scythian,
Into flagellation—my Kh’yst,
--Sea!—like the sky I enter you.
So with every line—
At your secret signal
I halt,
I listen up.

At every line:  stop!
At every turn—treasure.
--Eye!—like light I settle into you.
I melt.  As longing
On a guitar fret
I retune myself,
I restring myself.

Marriage lies—not in the down
But in the quills—of swans!
Marriages that are divisive, and diverse!
So at the mark of my dash—
As at a secret sign
Your eyebrows rise—
Do you even trust me?

Not in this weak tea
Of rumor—with my breath so strong.
And my stock—so considerable!
Under your thumb
Like the Lord’s wafer
I am ground,
Broken in two.

22 January 1925

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"Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow in 1892, and began to publish in her teens, to multiple good reviews by Russian literary critics.  She was a working contemporary of Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Boris Pasternak and Rainer Maria Rilke, all of whom were important to her as rivals, lovers, correspondents and mentors, from time to time. 

"Tsvetaeva left the Soviet Union in 1922 to reunite with her husband after a four year wartime separation, and lived as an exile in Berlin, Prague and Paris through 1939.  The period of exile in Prague, lasting from August of 1922 to May of 1925, was a very productive period, with new poems arriving every other day or so, or sometimes two poems a day, until her son, Georgy (nicknamed Mur) was born in 1924, when the poems slow to a relative trickle. 

"These particular poems were written in Prague between January 6, 1925 and January 22, 1925.  In these four poems, her spirit struggles after a difficult final winter living in the small villages surrounding Prague in considerable poverty with her young daughter, infant son, and dependent-student-war-veteran husband.  While living in and around Prague, the family was supported by Tsvetaeva's writing, small refugee pensions from the Czech government supplemented by direct gifts from Czech literary friends like Anna Teskova.  By spring of 1925, Tsvetaeva moved on to Paris, where, in 1928, these poems were collected into her final published book of shorter lyrics, After Russia. 

"Russian critic Simon Karlinsky, also her biographer, offers this judgment of her work of this period: "if we were to select the verse collection by Tsvetaeva in which her poetic craft reaches its highest peak, and her human and poetic stature its more awesome dimension and sweep, we would have to choose Posle Rossii [After Russia]."

"During this time of exile, and continuing on as she moved to Paris, Tsvetaeva was writing very frequently to Pasternak; for example, the 2nd and 3rd stanzas of "Into grey--my temples" were included in one of these letters to him.

"In 1939, Tsvetaeva and her son chose to follow her husband and daughter back to the Soviet Union.  Her husband, Sergei Efron, was executed shortly afterward; her daughter, Ariadna (Alya), was also arrested and committed to a labor camp; her teen-aged son was unsettled and unhappy in the USSR, and later died as a soldier in World War II, all too shortly after Tsvetaeva hanged herself in 1941, in Elabuga, where she and her son had been evacuated to the safety of dire poverty.  At the time of her death, she was 48.

I began translating Tsvetaeva in about 1978, upon the recommendation of Russian poet Joseph Brodsky:

 "Well, if you are talking about the twentieth century, I'll give you a list of poets.  Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva (and she is the greatest one in my view.  The greatest poet in the twentieth century was a woman." Joseph Brodsky, "Questions and Answers after Brodsy's Reading, 21 February 1978," Iowa Review 9(4): 4-5.

Translations and text by Mary Jane White, MFA, Iowa Writers' Workshop, NEA Fellow in Poetry and Translation.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Sarah Sutro, Etudes

cover painting by Sarah Sutro 
Sarah Sutro is a poet and painter. A finalist for the Robert Frost Poetry Award and MA Artist Foundation Poetry Grant, she has been a Pollack Krasner Foundation Award recipient and a visiting writer/artist at the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, Millay and Ossabaw Island Colonies. A faculty and  visiting professor at several colleges and universities, including Emerson College, University of Massachusetts, Cornell University and Lesley University, she is also the author of COLORS:  Passages through Art, Asia and Nature (Blue Asia Press 2010).

√Čtudes, her first poetry book, has just been published by Finishing Line Press. The San Francisco poet Edward Mycue writes of the poems as including "bold objects, strong colors, landscapes, patterns, noises felt as elemental, windy, hot experiences, readers' leaps...." Kathleen Aguero, author of After That, comments, "With an artist’s eye and a poet’s voice, Sarah Sutro celebrates the ephemeral....this poet is always looking, catching the fleeting moments between one state and another." 

We have read Etudes and find the poems wonderful. Sutro is a poet seeing the world through a painter's eye, with many references to colors filling the lines. Behind many poets we find the desire to be a visual artist. Poet Theodore Roethke, for example, worked on a series of drawings inspired by his friend the artist Morris Graves, which were never shown. In Sutro's case we are fortunate to be able to see her paintings as well as read her poems. 


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to order on Amazon


Mar 17, 2016
by Sarah Sutro