Wednesday, December 26, 2012


A novel by Paul West

“I FELL, CAME CRASHING DOWN. Injuring my leg, immobilizing my right arm and paralyzing my right cheek. Not so much an accident as an insult to half my body, which after a few days of elementary care turned into a full blown stroke, leaving me mumbling, unable to speak.

Look at him, Diane whispered, he’s having another stroke. One glance at my dreadful pallor sufficed—coupled with my frozen eyes and expressionless face. In what seemed like no time at all, I was flat on my back beneath a colossal lamp hearing Diane speak with the doctor about my condition.

What caused this idiot to go full tilt, stumbling catastrophically when merely crossing my living room in pursuit of a book titled Therapies? Feeling for the book’s exaggerated title? Just possibly, but I doubt it. More likely a mere instant of mental vacancy leading to unstable footing. The millisecond for all time.

To have taken the plunge from one dimension to another may seem upward gesture, a gesture of joy. But not so. For me it was rather a fatal swoon towards oblivion.”

So begins Paul West’s latest book, his fiftieth, The Left Hand is the Dreamer, the story of West’s three weeks spent recovering from a near fatal stroke at Garden Court a rehabilitation home in Palm Beach, Florida. The book is fantastically engaging, witty, and, as all West books, brilliantly written.

We camp with Paul as he struggles to regain the use of his whole right side, an arm and leg that won’t work and a mouth trapped in mumbles. What he hasn’t lost though is his keen mind and fantastic wit. In between eating, sleeping, and therapy sessions, the embattled author slowly prints out the words that became this book with his left hand. Following his progress we feel what he feels and almost want to cheer when he records something as simple getting out of bed by himself.

To quote the author Sven Birkerts: “Out on those risky ledges where language is continually fought for and renewed—that’s where Paul West breathes the thin, necessary air.”

The cover is a recent watercolor painting by West, who has managed to make almost a hundred paintings and collages, using only his left hand, since suffering his stroke.

* * *

PAUL WEST is the author of 50 books. He has received awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Lannan Prize for Fiction and the Halperin-Kaminsky Prize. He was named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Government. He has also been a runner-up for the National Book Circle Award and the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Onager Editions, Ithaca, NY

2012 / ISBN 978-1-60047-807-9 /$12.00

To order book on Amazon click here

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Sunday, December 9, 2012


Story and Drawing by Sasha Thurmond

I FOUND AN AQUARIUM AT THE LOCAL DUMP. It was in a container, and the employee at the dump stepped down on a ladder and retrieved it for me. It was complete with a Grand Canyon mural pasted on the back wall, and the two sides. There was even rock mesas, rock formations, and a cave. I thought I could use it as an aquarium for small cactus plants. It had a screened top, and had no cracks at all in the glass, or in the screen. The dump employee would not accept any money for it . . . he was happy it would be something enjoyable for me.

One day I went to a pet store to get some food for my dogs and cats. The store had a Bearded Dragon for sale, and I was told that they could live up to 9 years old, and that they were sweet, and liked interaction with their owners. I bought the bearded dragon, and named him Flash Gordon, as he was fleet when running. Full grown, they are usually two feet long. I had three cats which I knew would be very intrigued with him, but also very scary to Flash. So, he had to stay in a room with the door closed, and barriers to keep him safe. The pet store was right that my bearded dragon is very sweet. He sits on my shoulder while we watch T.V. My cats had to stay in my bedroom while Flash watched television with me. I let Flash run around the house while I kept up with him, preventing him from squeezing into spots where it would be difficult for me to get him.

The thing that Flash Gordon loves to do most is run around on the grass, sticking his tongue out to sense the temperature and water of the grass blades. It is a whole new world outside. I always have to put my two dogs in their kennel. They would find Flash to be lots of fun to chase. Not necessarily out of meanness, rather just because he is unusual looking. He looks like a prehistoric dinosaur. He eats crickets, vegetables, fruits, kale and other types of fresh foliage. And he loves to be spritzed by water which is how he gets a lot of his daily water supply.

I used to have four cats when I moved to South Carolina. One escaped from my new house when I first arrived here and was moving things inside. I never saw him again. Tears were too many when I moved here. Now I only have one cat named Sprint, and she is so sad to be alone, that she even let my two dogs befriend her. One day I put Flash Gordon in the window in my guest bedroom. He likes to sun there, and I usually put him there for the day. Recently, when I went to put him back in his large aquarium, I was shocked to see Flash Gordon and Sprint basking in the window sill together. Now that Sprint has an exotic friend, she has stopped crying all the time. This is so peaceful, and uplifting. My tears are joyful.

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SASHA THURMOND is an artist and writer who lives on a farm in South Carolina with her horse and numerous other animals. She has a MFA degree in fine art from Cornell University.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

BITS & PIECES; poems by Verlaine Boyd

BITS & PIECES [Weil Books, New York, 2012] is a selection of poems by Verlaine Boyd. It is divided into three sections: “Bits,” short takes; “Pieces,” longer poems; and “Calendar Poems,” written in response to the daily sayings on her desk calendar in the infamous year 2001. I have read the book and enjoyed it thoroughly. The works have a deceptive way of arriving at new truths and causing the reader to rethink everyday things that one may have taken for granted. The cover is a striking painting by her husband the artist Michael Boyd, to whom the "Pieces" section of the book is dedicated.

The  book is available on line at: and also at Buffalo Street Books, in Ithaca, NY. 

Here is one of my favotite poems from the book:


We have come to the place

Where crickets go to die,

Where their wings fold together

Like mussel shells,

And their legs,

Rubbed through from singing,

Lie in state in rolled-up carpets.

It is crisp underfoot

And dryer than death.

I think I hear fire in my feet,

But it is only the last song sung

As the voice leaves the carapace.

Clearing my throat

The lump moves into place,

An egg case of screams

Waiting to hatch.

* * *
POET AND NOVELIST VERLAINE BOYD has been writing for her entire adult life.Some of her work has appeared in, among others, New: American and Canadian Poetry, Road Apple Review, Northeast, Sumus, Woman’s Work, and in 7 Close and Distant, a portfolio of prints by Joan Vennum. She has published articles on art and artists, as well as poetry reviews, and worked as a writer and editor for Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning. She is married to the painter Michael Boyd and lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York. You can find out more about Verlaine on her web site:

Sidney Grayling

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Poleskie and his relations on their farm in Lomza, Poland


a memoir

I HAD BEEN INVITED to have an exhibition of my artworks in Warsaw. It was to be at an important gallery, or so I had been told by SB the Polish art critic who had arranged it. He had written a book, recently published in Poland, cataloging American artists of Polish descent who had had a modicum of success in their respective fields. Now I was known in at least three artistic areas, which was how I happened to be included in his book. I had founded a screen-printing shop in Manhattan, called Chiron Press, which had not only printed my works, but also made prints by such well-know artists as Rauschenbeg, Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Anuszkiewicz. And I had also built up a modest reputation as a painter. But it was as an “artflyer” that I was most know, especially in Europe, an artist who flew a biplane trailing smoke to make artworks in the sky. And so I found myself standing in Parade Square, staring up at the massive tower of the Palace of Culture and Science, the building that held the gallery where my work would be shown.

I had arrived, as instructed by SB, almost two weeks early so that my show of collage/drawings, hand carried on the airplane rolled up in a tube, would have time to be flattened and mounted under glass. For several days we had been visiting the tourist sights: Old Town, the museums, Chopin’s monument, and I suspected that SB was getting tired of me, or perhaps had other things to do. “Tomorrow, you will go to Gdansk, for a few days,” he surprised me by announcing. “I have a friend there who will put you up. It is an interesting city, very old, and there is a lot going on there now.”

There was indeed a lot happening in Gdansk, which I wasn’t fully aware of the significance of until several months later, when I was back in my home in Ithaca, New York. On a government sponsored visit to the USSR a year earlier I had given workshops on screen printing using the supplies and equipment that I had brought with me from the US. One day a Russian student cornered me and asked: “What good is all this doing for us? When you leave you will take all these things away with you and we won’t be able to do anything. We can’t buy these supplies in the shops here.”

In reply I had outlined a program where one could set up a screen-printing shop using ordinary household materials. I gave them a list of things to collect, like a windshield wiper, gum arabic, litho crayons, window curtains, a wooden frame, and house paint. The next day they brought in all the stuff I had suggested. Rising to their challenge I put everything together and produced a print. Everyone was quite impressed. I later learned that the printing process was very tightly controlled by the Communist Party, with all such activities only taking place in official shops, so that whatever was printed could be carefully monitored. At that time, which was before personal computers, I was told one even needed to obtain a permit to buy a typewriter. My demonstration of a “home-made print shop” had amounted to a rather subversive act.

In Gdansk I was invited to check out a screen-printing shop that some artists had just set up, and to offer my suggestions for improvements. I went there, made some comments and thought nothing of it. Several months later, I saw the shop again. This time it was in a photograph in TIME magazine. The caption read: Masked shipyard workers screen printing Solidarity strike posters at a secret location in Gdansk.

On the third day of my stay in Gdansk, I received a strange phone message from SB. I was told to return to Warsaw at once. My relations were camped out on the stoop by the front door to his building and were not going to leave until I appeared.

I had given SB a letter sent from Poland to my grandfather, on my mother’s side, that had been passed to me when he died. As I can’t read Polish, I had no idea who it was from or what it was about. There was also a photo enclosed of a group of people gathered around an open coffin. SB, using the return address, had hunted down these Polish relations knew nothing about. After learning that I was in Warsaw the family had sent two of the sons to get me and bring me back to their village. SB had told them that not only was I from America, but also that I was a famous artist, a university professor, and owned two airplanes. My relations were more than eager to meet me.

There was a knock on the door. Returned to Warsaw I was staying at the apartment of the well-known filmmaker TP-M. He had left for an early appointment, but was to be back by noon so that we could go and meet my relatives at SB’s apartment. I heard the knock again, only louder and more insistent. Thinking that it must be TP-M, who had probably forgotten his key, I opened the door.

“Wh-loo-jin-ski!” a brawny male in peasant-style garb announced, pointing to himself and then to a similar looking, but slightly larger, man standing next to him.

“Wh-loo-jin-ski!” the other man repeated, pointing at me.

Then he embraced me in a massive, bear-like hug. Stepping back I uttered a few words in English, which neither of them understood. They both smiled and shouted out what sounded like enthusiastic words in Polish, repeating the word Wh-loo-jin-ski.

I was beginning to understand that they were the Wh-loo-jin-skis and that somewhere in my background I was a Wh-loo-jin-ski too. But how had they found me. They were supposed to be camped at SB’s door waiting for my arrival. I guessed that in his eagerness to be rid of them SB had sent them over here.

“Please come in,” I said to no response. They did understand hand gestures though, and I led them into the living room, which I immediately realized was a mistake. I saw shock come over their faces when they spied the drapes. TP-M had recently done a film documentary in Japan, from where he had returned with window coverings lavishly decorated with pornographic images. Why? I had not asked him. The two men just stood there, probably in the finest apartment that they had ever been in, staring at the drapes. They turned to leave. What kind of den of sin had they been led into? I pretended not to notice their shock and gestured for them to sit down, but they would have no part of it. They were inching toward the door as I dialed SB’s number on the telephone. There was no answer, and he had no answering machine. I had no idea what to do, nor was I sure when TP-M would return. Sensing the reason for my call, and embarrassed situation at its lack of success, the two men respectfully took seats.

We three sat there in silence, looking from one to the other to the drapes. One of the few Polish words I did know was the word for beer, but I rejected offering them one at 9:30 in the morning. Time passed. They must be getting warm in their heavy coats and boots, I thought. They had taken off their hats in politeness. They were getting nervous. They began to chatter in Polish. I got up and dialed SB again; there was still no answer. Getting up was my mistake. The two men stood up and repeating “Wh-loo-jin-ski” took me by the arms and began hustling me toward the door. Luckily my coat was hanging on a hook in the hallway. They helped me into it before herding me down the stairs and out into a cold Warsaw early spring morning.

The two men hailed a taxi and urged me into it. Was I being kidnapped? They gave the driver directions in Polish and then turned to me. Pointing forward they conveyed what I took to be our destination: “Wh-loo-jin-skis.”

A taxi ride to the other side of Warsaw took us to a woman, also apparently a relative, who did not speak English, but did speak French. This, my captors assumed, must be something like English, which was why they had brought me here the woman explained as we staggered through a conversation, me using the high school French I had learned thirty years earlier. If I didn’t have much of a vocabulary I did have a good accent.

I discovered from the woman that what sounded like “Wh-loo-jinski” was actually spelled Chludzinski, which was my grandfather’s name.

“Melchior Chludzinski,” she said, “who lived in Pennsylvania. He was a banker, so rich that he drove a Ferrari.”

“Yes, I knew Melchior. He was my grandfather,” I replied, not mentioning that “Mike” was actually a coal miner who had died young from black-lung disease, and never owned a Ferrari, only a second-hand Chevrolet that his wife drove because he didn’t have a license as he couldn’t read enough English to pass the written test.

“He was my mother’s brother. She was so proud of him. He was doing so well over there in America,” the woman gushed.

“Yes, I remember him taking me for rides in his Ferrari when I was a little boy,” I added nostalgically, not wanting to disabuse the Chludzinskis’ of their family myth.

The two brothers were finally convinced to take me back to TP-M’s apartment, where we found him waiting for us. Everything was explained and agreed upon. The two men did not want to wait around in Warsaw for the opening of my exhibition, but would return to their village to prepare for my arrival. They would slaughter a pig, or something. TP-M promised not only to deliver me, but to also bring them “a big surprise.” Content with this arrangement my new found relations hurried away.

The opening of my exhibition at Galleria Studio seemed to be a success. A crowd of people came. It created a lot of interest, especially from the authorities who found my collages, which used US aeronautical charts as the substrate, to be rather suspicious. SB told me that they had asked him why I blocked out certain areas on the maps with black squares: “Were they secret military installations?” My answer that it was an “aesthetic decision” hadn’t been too convincing to their police state mentality.

The day after the opening we were on the way to my grandfather’s village. I say we, because there were actually nine of us in a three-vehicle caravan. TP-M had obtained funds from Polish National Television to make a documentary film about my visit to Poland. I was in the lead car, a kind of Russian limousine, with TP-M and the driver, directly behind us was a minibus with cameramen and technicians, and behind that a van with cameras and equipment. I was already picturing the scene we were going to create when we arrived at the Chludzinski family homestead in a village near Lomza.

But before we got to our destination there would be several stops for film shoots. I remember walking through a woods looking at rows of bunkers dug during a battle fought in this place during WWII. We did wide angles and close ups of my face staring down at the worn earth mounds. I cannot recall which side was supposed to have dug the bunkers in this now quiet forest.

Passing through another woods, we stopped and I was transferred to the minibus. TP-M handed me the letter from my grandfather, which I had not seen since I gave it to SB when I first arrived. I sat in the bus pretending to read the letter as we drove slowly along. TP-M hung on outside, standing on the step, filming me through the window. Every now and then I was signaled, by T’s tapping, to look out at the passing trees with a serious gaze as he filmed the shadows falling across my face. I realized then that this was going to be a very artful documentary.

About a mile from the village our party came upon an old man on a horse cart. TP-M ordered our driver to pass the cart and pull over. Then he got out and waved to the cart man to stop. After a brief negotiation, TP-M came back to the limo. I was told to get out of the car and onto the cart. I clambered up on the seat next to the driver. I would arrive at my grandfather’s village in a horse and wagon, probably the same type of conveyance he had used to depart from there more than seventy years ago. As I clopped along, the crew filming from the minibus, TP-M and the driver rushed ahead in the limousine to alert the village of my impending arrival, and to set the stage for my entry scene.

Just outside the village I was headed off by T P-M and told to wait with the cart. The second camera crew was to proceed to the village and get set up. After a short wait, which the horse seemed to greatly appreciate, T P-M returned and told us to head out. The spectacle that greeted me when we got to the village was just as absurd as the one that I was making arriving in a horse cart. The entire street was lined with people. Apparently T P-M had roused everyone with nothing better to do, and some with things to do but who just wanted to be in a movie, to come out and stand in the street to watch the arrival of the famous American artist—who owned two airplanes.

When we reached the house of my relatives, the horse cart and I were turned around and sent back to shoot the scene over again. When I finally got to meet my Polish relations they were all standing rather stiffly in a line and at attention, waiting to shake my hand. It must be the Communist influence, I thought. We shot the meeting scene three times before I was allowed to go into the house. My passing through the front door was shot twice from the outside and thrice from the inside. I was beginning to realize just what a boring and repetitious job being a movie actor must be.

After much fussing and filming, and translated conversation, I was finally sat down at the dinner table. The neighbors could be seen looking in at us through the windows. The food was typical Polish fare, or so I was told. My uncle would pour the traditional red beet juice into the traditional vodka. Having spent a whole month in the USSR last year, I was prepared for a tall glass of vodka with lunch.

“Wait!” TP-M shouted (in Polish of course), having filmed the liquid transfer from an over-my-shoulder vantage point. “Let’s do that again, I want to get a close-up.”

TP-M came around the table and moved in closer. He was not just the director but more often than not grabbed the camera out of the cameraman’s hands for what he thought were key shots. My uncle poured more of the red beet juice into another beaker of vodka.

“That was good, but not really great,” TP-M announced. “The red color didn’t flow into the vodka quite as dramatically as it did the first time. Can we do it again?”

Meanwhile the traditional Polish meal waiting on the table was growing cold. Red and white being the colors of the Polish flag, I wondered if TP-M might be going for some kind of metaphor with this liquid pouring.

“Ny-ma,” my uncle said. Now that was a Polish word I knew, even if I couldn’t spell it. It was a word I had heard my grandfather, the coal miner, say many times. There was no more vodka to play around with. At his direction the food was passed and we began to eat in earnest, all except the cameramen who continued to hover about filming various people eating. Apparently this table scene was not all that important as TP-M had sat down next to me and was filling his plate.

The plan for after lunch was that I would entertain the gathering by showing slides of my artworks. A variety of chairs were collected from the kitchen and the other rooms of the house. Some of the people from outside were invited in. But first, I needed to use the bathroom. I had said “bathroom,” that polite word American’s use when they really mean toilet. There was a flurry of excited conversation in Polish, my relations looking at each other with sheepish expressions on their faces.

“They say that they have no bathroom,” TP-M explained.

“Oh, yes of course . . . I meant to say toilet.”

“That’s not it. They are embarrassed to tell you that they have no such facilities in the house . . . you must go out back and use the outhouse.”

The relations were staring at me expectantly.

“Okay, I can deal with that. I have used an outhouse before.”

My uncle opened the back door and pointed to a small, rather rustic-looking shed at the far end of the yard. As I started my trek I noticed that cameraman number two had come out behind me and was following me up the path, his camera grinding away.

“Mind if I go in by myself?” I asked pushing open the outhouse door. Closing it firmly after me, I was careful to lock it.

The facility was a one-seater, with a copy of a Polish newspaper lying next to the hole. The paper, I realized, was not there just for reading. The cameraman was waiting for me when I came back out. He began filming again, and stalked me all the way to the house. I smiled and waved.

After several false starts we finally got the projector to work. My slide show went reasonably well. It should have, it was the same one I gave every semester at the university, and had presented at numerous other art schools and museums over the years. One slide of my early figurative paintings should have been left out though. A work depicting a nude female leaving a bathtub caused a bit of a stir, comments in Polish I didn’t understand, and which no one bothered to translate. A little boy sitting in the front row giggled and pointed before the woman sitting next to him made him turn his head away.

“Are there any questions?” TP-M said translating my question.

An old man at the back spouted out something and everyone laughed.

“What did he say that’s so funny?” I asked, feeling a bit defensive.

“He says that he would like to see a dollar.”

“See a dollar? What for?”

“He says that he has heard so much about the famous American dollar, but he has never seen a real one. If you have one he would like to hold it and to look at it. He will give it back. . . .”

A strange request I thought. Didn’t anyone have any questions about the artworks I had just shown, or their relation from the US who had made them? Fishing in my wallet the smallest American bill I could find was a twenty; I passed it back to the man. Everyone who handled the paper as it went on its way held it for a brief moment, looking at the money and studying it, before sending it on.

“Are there any other questions?” TP-M said continuing to translate.

“Does everyone in America really have a car?” a young man asked.

“No, not everyone . . . but a lot of people do, people who live in the country where houses are far apart and there is no public transportation,” I said subconsciously defending the American way of life. I had observed that although this was ostensibly a farm village, all the houses were rather close together, the farmland and pastures extending out behind the houses in long, thin rectangles.

“Any questions about the art?” I had TP-M ask, as I watched the twenty dollar bill slowly making its way back to me by way of the other side of the room. It seemed as if everyone wanted to handle this fabled currency. The group said nothing. These people were farmers, not art connoisseurs. I was handed back my money.

After a few moments of awkward silence, TP-M got up and thanked me in English. Then he said something in Polish and the group stood up. Most people left without saying anything—they had probably only come to be in the movie anyway. A few shook my hand before they left, taking the opportunity to say “goodbye” in English.

The afternoon was getting on. TP-M announced that it was time to pack up. He wanted to drive back in daylight as the roads we had come on were mostly through dark forests. I stepped outside, shaking hands and taking the opportunity to say “goodbye” in what I thought was Polish, but was actually Russian. TP-M corrected me. Then I noticed the motorcycle parked out front next to the house.

For many years I had ridden motorcycles, and even raced them a bit. This machine a CZ 250cc was a lot like the motocross bike I bought when I moved to upstate New York. I asked who the motorcycle’s owner was, and if I might try it out. The people who had been leaving stopped. Now here was something interesting. The bike’s owner, one of my cousins I suspected, came forward rather proudly.

It was agreed I could ride it. I mounted the bike and was shown the controls. With one kick of the starter the engine howled into life, the whining sound a two-stroke engine makes when you crank the throttle. I popped the clutch and roared off. A few yards down the road I had enough speed to pull a wheelie. Then, I put the front wheel back down on the ground, slammed on the brakes and let the back end of the bike drift around to the opposite direction. I headed back to the house, pulling another wheelie just before I got there. The gathering was ecstatic, people shouting and clapping and pounding me on the back. So this vaunted American artist really was skilled with machinery.

“I got it all on film, great stuff. It’ll add real color,” TP-M said excitedly.

“So . . . can you ride-ed a horse?” a tall man with a dark beard standing next to me asked, the first English sentence I had heard from anyone in the village all day. He nodded toward a rather tired looking animal standing in the field across the street as if he wasn’t quite sure I understood the word horse.

“Well, yes. . . .”

“Then you can to ride-ed a horse for the movie. . . .”

Now I had been on a horse only once before in my entire life, back in college using a Western saddle, when I had briefly dated a girl who was into horses. But I was the hero of the moment, an American artist who could do anything—I couldn’t back down now. “I suppose I can,” I said, hoping that was the end of the matter.

“Good. They can now bring-ed the horse. . . .”

So why were those men heading for a barn? I wondered. The horse was standing right there in the field.

Out it came, snorting and stamping its feet, a magnificent stallion that took three men to handle. From the way it was behaving it was clear that this horse wasn’t very keen on being ridden by anyone. Was this bearded man having a joke at my expense? “Here it is your horse,” he said, urging me to mount up.

“Where’s the saddle?”

“Ve have-ed no saddle . . . you must to ride-ed like this. . . .”

Three men were lifting me onto the horse’s naked back. To this day I am not sure how I managed to get up there. I struggled to keep my balance, my feet grasping for stirrups that did not exist. A rope bridle was thrust in my hands. Someone shouted the Polish equivalent of “Giddy-up,” and my horse took off down the road at a fast clip. Holding on to the rope with my hands, and gripping the horses smooth, damp sides with my legs, I was sure that my next accomplishment would be falling off. But if I managed somehow to stay on the question became where were we going: Russia, Ukraine? We had already proceeded farther down the road than I had gone on the motorcycle.

“Whoa!” I shouted. “Whoa!” Obviously the horse did not understand English, or the word meant something else in Polish for the animal accelerated its pace. I was holding onto its mane now—hanging on for dear life.

Then I remembered a word my grandfather used to yell at me when I ran around his house a bit to wild. I couldn’t spell it if I had to, but I recalled the sound.

“Check-eye! Check-eye!” I shouted. The horse must have understood for he screeched to a stop. In an instant I was sliding forward up the horse’s neck. I grabbed for its ears, which was all that stood between me and a nasty, head over heels tumble. I held on stopping my motion, and then I slid backward to where I should be sitting. The horse just stood there, looking down at the side of the road and nibbling grass. Glancing over my shoulder I could see that far back up the street, in front of my relatives’ house, people were waving and shouting to me. How was I going to get this cursed animal turned around and headed in that direction?

I tugged the bridle rope to the right, attempting to pull the horse’s neck around that way. It stopped grazing and looked up. Seeing that there was a wonderful field of grass off in the direction I had tugged it, my mount took my gesture to mean that it should head over there and chow down.

We were standing in the field now, 90 degrees to the direction off the house, at least half turned around. The horse was not running or bucking, just grazing contentedly. I felt that I was making progress. But I could see that three of the horse’s minders were now headed down the road in my direction, apparently to lead us back to the house. This would not do. Having gotten this runaway creature to stop, and turned around at least half way, I saw myself riding it back in triumph.

Pulling firmly on the bridle got the horse to look up. Perhaps through instinct the animal turned in the direction of the house, or perhaps it was the men he saw now running toward us. The horse shook his head and made a whinny, a gesture which I took to mean that it knew it was in trouble. Maybe we had come too far, maybe it wasn’t supposed to be eating the grass in this particular field.

“Giddy-up,” I yelled which this time the horse understood, or maybe it was my slap on its shoulder, or the kick I gave to its flank. At any rate we were off again, heading in the direction of the house at a fast clip, with me in a little better control than on the outward journey. We came abreast of the men and they began to run alongside of us. The horse slowed down and they caught hold of it as we pulled up in front of the parked vehicles. As soon as the horse was stopped, I slid off its back and bounced to the ground with the alacrity, but not the skill, of a pony express rider changing mounts.

All around me people were again laughing and clapping and patting me on the back and saying things in Polish. I looked up and there was TP-M standing on top of the van, his camera grinding away.

“It was a great show,” he shouted, giving me a thumbs-up sign. “It will look real good in the movie.”

I patted the horse on the nose and it was led back to the barn. I could swear that the animal looked back at me with a kind of fondness in its eyes.

We were packing the things into the vehicles when the man from in the house who had wanted to see the money came up to TP-M and asked to see the dollar bill again.

“It’s a twenty,” I said.

“Well he wants to see it another time.”

I handed it to the man, who just stood there holding the bill and staring at it.

“Let’s go,” TP-M said. A group had gathered around the man and they were all looking at the American money.

“Does he want me to give it to him, or what?” I asked trying not to sound annoyed as we got into the backseat of the limousine.

“They’re not allowed to have foreign currency,” TP-M replied. “But they can use it on the black market.”

Hearing the driver start the engine the man looked up. He walked over to the limo, signaled for me to open the window, and then handed me back my twenty dollar bill, saying something in Polish.

“What did he say?”

“He said that he thanks you for letting him see the money.”

I waved and smiled at the man as we departed. The limousine was in the rear of the convoy for the homeward journey. I supposed the plan was that if we should happen onto a wild animal standing in the road in the darkening forest the lead van would hit it first, and we would be spared—unless we crashed into the back of the second van. We drove along making small talk for awhile, and then we each fell into our own thoughts. After a few minutes I broke the silence.

“What was that business back there with them all wanting to see the money?”

“Your relations were disappointed with you.”

“With me! What for?”

“You embarrassed them in front of their friends.”

“How? Didn’t they like my slides? I should have taken out the nude picture.”

“That wasn’t it.”

“What then?”

“You didn’t bring them any presents.”

“Was I supposed to? . . .”

“In Poland it is the custom, it is very important. You were a big man from America. You came in a limousine . . . with a film crew. You should have been very generous with presents for everyone.”

“But I didn’t know that. I had no idea who would be there or what was expected of me,” I said anger building in my throat, “Why didn’t you tell me what to do?”

“Don’t worry. I have made a list of these relations of yours that you did not know you had; their names, sizes, likes, and so forth. Tomorrow I will send a man shopping and load up the van with presents for them. The next day the van will return to the village and distribute the things with your blessing.”

“Thank you,” I said.

The movie was made. Titled “Almost Polish,” it was widely shown on Polish television where it was apparently received not so much as a documentary, but as a fictional comedy. I never got to see it though. TP-M had promised to send me a copy of “Almost Polish.” However, shortly after he completed my film, he had made a film about the Solidarity labor strikes that got him in trouble with the authorities. TP-M traveled to London on a film assignment and never returned to Poland.

*  *  *

STEPHEN  (STEVE) POLESKIE is an artist and writer. His artwork is in the collections of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York: and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Gallery in London, and the Museum Sztuki in Lodz. His writing, fiction and art criticism, has appeared in many journals both here and abroad. Among these are American Writing, Leonardo, Lightworks, Many Mountains Moving, Satire, SN Review, and Sulphur River Literary Review in the USA; D'Ars, and Spazio Umano, in Italy, Himmelschrieber in Germany, and Imago in Australia. He also has a story in the anthology The Book of Love, from W. W. Norton, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poleskie has published five novels and has taught, or been a visiting professor at twenty-seven colleges and art schools throughout the world, including: MIT, Rhode Island School of Design, the School of Visual Art in New York and the University of California, Berkeley. He has also been a resident at the American Academy in Rome. Poleskie is currently a professor emeritus at Cornell University. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife, the novelist, Jeanne Mackin. Additional information can be found on his web site:

photo by Tomasz Pobog-Malinowski

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Friday, October 12, 2012


US DISTRICT COURT JUDGE Harold Baer has ruled that the mass book digitization program conducted by five major universities in conjunction with Google is a fair use under US copyright law. Under that program, Google has converted millions of copyright-protected library books into machine-readable files, duplicating and distributing the digitized books to university libraries. The universities pooled the digitized books into an online database organized by the University of Michigan known as HathiTrust.

The Authors Guild disagrees with nearly every aspect of the court's ruling. They're especially disappointed that the court refused to address the universities' "orphan works" program, which defendants have repeatedly promised to revive. A year ago, the University of Michigan and other defendants were poised to release their first wave of copyright-protected, digitized books to hundreds of thousands of students and faculty members in several states. The universities had deemed the authors of these books to be unfindable.

Within two days of filing their lawsuit last September, Authors Guild members and staff found that the "orphans" included books that were still in print, books by living authors, books whose rights had been left to educational and charitable institutions in the U.S. and abroad, books represented by literary agents, and books by recently deceased authors whose heirs were easily locatable.

"The so-called orphan works program was quickly shown to be a haphazard mess, prompting Michigan to suspend it," said Paul Aiken, the Guild's executive director. "But the temptation to find reasons to release these digitized books clearly remains strong, and the university has consistently pledged to reinstate the orphan works program. The court's decision leaves authors around the world at risk of having their literary works distributed without legal authority or oversight."

The Authors Guild will be discussing the decision with their colleagues and co-plaintiffs in Europe, Canada, and Australia and expect to announce our next steps shortly.

The Authors Guild
31 E 32nd St
Fl 7
New York, NY 10016
United States

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Story and drawing by Sasha Thurmond

TWO DAYS BEFORE my 59th birthday,  I noticed that my cat " Black Beauty" was  staying stretched out  on her side, and intermitently meowing loudly. I had to pick her up onto my bed where she loved to share a pillow with me while we slept She was long and sleek, and utterly black, including her eye lashes, whiskers, nose, and lips.   She had already lived longer than her "cat's nine lives", and had an amazing history of recovering from being nearly dead.

She became " My Cat " fifteen years ago during a deafening thunder and lightning storm, raging madly  that it owned  this night. My two cats and I huddled together in my bed, while my horses could be heard whinnying their fright on the intercom system in my barn, from which I could monitor their activity, and condition.  When the storm seemed to be passing, there was a loud banging on my front door. I dashed downstairs to see what it was all about.  I quickly swung the door open, and was surprised to see two of the little girls who lived on the farm across from mine. They were soaking wet, blood spatered all over their shirts, and they clutched  something black and bloody against their chests. I was horrified, not knowing what it was. They both were chattering at the same time saying something like" their Dad was going to shoot it to put it out of it's misery." That was how he dealt with suffering animals that appeared too far gone to be saved, or would be too costly to do so.. They told me it was a kitten they had found in the woods, right before the storm started. It was a tiny, pure black kitten, bleeding from all four paws,  and its mouth. It's lower lip was mangled, and was attached only by a thread. They pleaded for me to take it, to save it's life. Of course I did, and they happily ran back home to give the good news to their Father. I think he too was relieved that he didn't have to shoot it.
I started being it's veterinarian as best as I could. The bottoms of all four paws were raw, so I began with them. After carefully cleaning the kitty's paws with betadine, I wrapped each  paw in gauze, and taped it together making a nice, soft boot. The mouth was more of a problem. I only could dab it with cold water to stop the blood flow, then warm water and disinfectant .Then I applied neosporin which is always a wonderful healing salve. After all that, the tiny black mess looked like nothing really discernable, but it quickly fell asleep when I tucked it into it's temporary, cardboard box bed. When my husband arrived home, I showed him our latest charge. It was so ugly, that he said it's name would be "Black Beauty". "Not too original," I thought....However, it fit,  and it was a girl. In the morning, I bought " Beauty" to our Veterinarien  After examining her, he concluded that it looked like it had been tortured.

It was a female cat, and was born too close to Halloween. He informed me that animal shelters, and some pet stores, never sold all black cats in the month of October because many superstitious, and devil worshiping cults would get an all black cat and torture it, then usually kill it in some satanic rite. Well, " Black Beauty" survived, and after a very rough beginning, she blossomed into one of the sweetest cats I have ever had. She never grew very big, and remained very fragile with a small, chiseled head, and emerald, almond shaped eyes....the ones that alien's are often depicted with. Her coat was soft as a rabbit's,, and she would rather be petted, than fed. I know she knew that we had saved her, and she never grew tired of expressing her gratitude on a daily basis.  My other two cat's, A big, fluffy, gray Maine Coon Cat named " Razzy," and a calico cat named " Sprint," readily took to "Black Beauty" They began looking after her, and licking her clean.

All three of my cats were indoor animals.My first two I acquired when I lived in a condo. They were both abandoned kittens. When I moved to my farm, cars flew up and down the road, and there were a lot of coyotes, and other wild predators there. So, all three cats remained indoor cats.  One of Beauty's favorite spots to camp was on top of my computer.She liked the warmth the computer generated, and she staked her claim of it. Whenever the computer frustrated me too much, which it often did, I would take time out to stroke and scratch Beauty in all her favorite spots. She became my computer buddy, and defused my cyberspace woes.

About two years later, Black Beauty stopped eating and was losing weight rapidly. I brought her to my Vet. After blood work was done on her , they discovered that her red blood cell count was extremely low,  She had a serious form of anemia, and her prognosis was dim,  The Vet was unsure of what to do next. He knew of a new drug on the market, but it was very expensive. My husband said to try it, whatever the cost. It's name was Oxyglobin, and it infused a large amount of oxygen into her blood stream. It cost several thousand dollars, but it did the trick, and to our relief, saved Black Beauty's life. About two years later, we had to administer the oxyglobin again, As before, it worked like a charm. She never needed another dose of it. I later heard from my Vet. that oxyglobin, Black Beauty's " miracle drug", had been taken off the market. It was very expensive, and the majority of pet owners chose not to use it.

I will never understand this. For certain, these same people would use this to save their own children. Why not their "animal children" ?  My husband died in 2002. He was on his way to an auction in Maryland. We had an antique and collectibles store in Connecticut. He stopped for dinner along the way, and had to cross the highway to get to the restaurant. It was dark and rainy, and a car hit him. He died instantly.

My mother lived in an in-laws apartment attached to our house, and she had recently had a stroke. She is also an animal lover (as was my Dad) and at that point, she had four cats. They were all indoor/outdoor cats, and they could come and go as they pleased. The problem was that my Mother was out of control when it came to the feeding issue. She liked to put big, whopping plates of cat food, and left overs out on her porch to feed all the wild cats, dogs, opossums, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, birds, rats, weasels, my free range chickens and guinea hens, you name it.... she would feed it.One day, even a turtle showed up for vittles. The hare must have told him about it. He had to travel far to get there, but he seemed to think it was well worth the effort. My appeals to my mother to stop doing this fell on deaf ears. When she put plates of food on top of her convertible, neighborhood dogs would come from far and near, and jump right on top of her roof, and devoured the goodies there. The situation was way out of control. It took us 2 years to sell my farm and decide where to live next .The farm was too big and expensive for us to maintain without my husband. We also had four horses.Finally, we decided on our move. My Mother would go to California to live with my younger sister and her family, and I would venture off on my own to live in South Carolina.

Aiken, SC was a town which sprung out of the horse business and sport.Everybody has horses.My three cats, and one of my Mother's strays moved south with me. I couldn't afford to keep all four horses, and I was heart broken that I would only be able to take one with me. I chose the one we had since she was a baby, and I had done all the work in training her.Her name was Tigere', and she is now 17 years old, and looks and performs just wonderfully. Hopefully she won't have a bad injury, and I will be able to ride her well into her twenties before she has to be retired from riding.

When I first arrived in my new home, one of my cats somehow got outside while I was moving things into my house. and I never saw him again. Emotionally, it was a difficult move for me to be doing all alone, but I did it, and hoped for the best. Losing my first cat of my four, a Maine Coon Cat," Razzy", tore up my heart .At first, I cried an awful lot about things. The move was so overwhelming, I had to leave my husband's and my "dream Farm", but I had to persevere, no time to cry much, there was too much to do, and all my pets counted on me. I am proud to say that I did a good job of it. I live very remote in the woods, but there are horse farms all around me. I adopted a stray puppy from a litter of pups my neighbor's found and rescued. People abandon pets all the time around where I live. in Windsor.because it is mostly woods and horse farms. It is very sad, and a big problem. A lot of them starve to death, are killed and eaten by feral animals, get run over, and are caught and euthanized.

Time went by, and I've now lived here for 8 years. I took in another stray puppy as a companion to my first dog, and everybody was happy. Three years ago, my first dog developed a tumour the size of a soft ball. it was internal, and was attached to his stomach, and it had  also spread throughout his intestines. I thought that his lethargy was due to the severely hot summer we had been having.Unfortunately, and to my distress, he  had to be put down. His name was" Shyvor", and he was a collie mix.No one wanted him because he very shy and cowered in a corner with his paws covering his eyes. He turned out to be the friendliest of all, and was even too friendly to everybody. I had concern that someone would take him if he roamed too far.

Next," Dotstray" ( who i named after my mother)  had kidney failure, and she also had to be put down. I still live alone, and the vets know that I am very fractious when it comes to my pets.They allow me a long time to be alone with them, before they return to the room. Then I always hold which ever pet needs to go, and talk to them when the vet injects them. It is difficult to do this, but I don't want them to suffer.I try to be brave, so I stave off my tears untill my pet has passed on. I don't want to abandon them, I want to comfort them until the end.. 
After my first dog," Shyvor" passed, my second dog, "Tuxedo", had no one to play with. A stray boxer, pit bull mix showed up at my back door. She was under one year old, and was in heat. Her ribs protruded, and I knew divine providence sent her to be a companion to "Tuxedo." She has a short tail which never stops wagging, and she has this boxer trait where she can turn into a circle with her nose touching her tail while she wiggles like jello.She is a medium sized dog. and is very powerful and muscular.

The first time I put her in my kennel with "Tuxedo"she squatted down low, and sprang effortlessly over the 6 foot fencing.She did this again when I tried it a second time, and then I had to put a top on the kennel. But before I got around to doing this, I had to go somewhere, so I put her in a crate inside my house. When I returned, she was out of the crate, but the wire door was still shut. It was unlatched, so somehow she did that and the door shut behind her. Thus, I named her "Houdini." She had also chewed up toys, and moldings, and curtains, and anything she could find, including the garbage can that she had emptied out all over the floor.I had not expected such havoc Obviously,.she was terrified to be left all alone.
" Black Beauty" was wary of the dogs. She didn't have to deal with any up in Connecticut because we had none. Whenever my dogs tried to get to know her, she hissed and swatted them with her sharp claws.Whereas " Sprint" and" Dotstray" were not ruffled by them one bit. Dotstray became an indoor/outdoor cat." Black Beauty ventured out onto the porch a couple of times, and even down onto the grass, and the shed beyond, but something scared her, and she felt safer living inside. "Sprint" only sniffed around the porch one time until she saw my horse, and then whizzed back inside to be solely an indoor cat.  Two years ago,one of Black Beauty's eyes became sealed shut.I took her to the Vet's who discovered that she had an ulcerated eye which was very painful and required surgery. All efforts failed to keep her eyelashes from curling in upon her eyes, and finally the Vets called an eye specialist who told them what to do over the phone.  If this attempt to save her eye failed, the last recourse would be to remove it. But eureka !!!, the final attempt worked, and Beauty had full vision again.  This all wound up costing several thousand dollars to accomplish.

One year later, the other eye had to have the same operation. Beauty's eye' s anatomy were such that they were predisposed to this happening. Her second eye was fixed, but a small scar remained in the center of her eye. She was once again a happy camper. Most people thought I was crazy to spend so much money to save my cat's eyes, but to me it was vital, whatever the cost. Time ticked along, and my menagerie was all healthy.I had to stay well also, who else would take care of them ?
A few days ago, my boyfriend spotted a rat behind the microwave. when he saw it's nose stick out, he said that a mouse was in my kitchen, but then hollered that it was a rat! It shot across the counter and dove behind a cabinet door. We quickly nailed the door shut, and barricaded the other doors shut. . That was a first in the 8 years I have lived here. I loathe rats and vermin, and made such a commotion that my boyfriend sped to town to buy some rat traps, and rat poison. Meanwhile, I discovered signs of a rat under my bathroom tub. We set 2 traps, and held back from putting out the poison bait. The next morning, to my geat relief the rat was killed by one of the spring release traps. That is when I put some of the poison trays strategicly positioned in several places in case there were anymore dasterdly rats, or God forbid, a family of them. The poison traps were all in places where none of my cats or dogs could get at them. An hour later was when Black Beauty started bleating. I worried that she might have gotten into the rat poisoning in some mysterious way, and if so, I was to blame.

I called my Vet, told them about Black Beauty and that I thought she may have been poisoned. They told me to come in right away. After examining Black Beauty in another room, they returned and told me that Beauty had passed a blood clot which paralyzed her hind end, and there was no circulation there, and it was very painful. It was just something that can happen and is similar to a heart attack. The vet had a 10 year old dog that had the same thing happen to him It definitely was not from rat poisoning. I was relieved that I had not inadvertently been the one who killed Beauty, though this was small consolation. The only humane thing to do was to put Black Beauty down The Vet said that in people years, Beauty was 99 years old. She had a long and happy life, after a very torturous beginning.
As usual, I was allowed a long time to be alone with Beauty, and then I held her during the procedure. Of course I cried afterward, but I had called my boyfriend so that he was there with me when it happened. We then brought Beauty home in a box, and I gently laid her in her favorite blanket, which I placed in the box. and also put in her diamond collar with her name tag on it. We buried her very deep in a spot where I had buried Shyvor, and Dotstray. I spoke some loving words to Black Beauty, and will plant some more flowers on the grave site of all three of my pets.. I have an antique, cast iron cross there already,  It is comforting for me to have them home on the farm with me.The older I get, the more I understand the expression that " Life is short."
I have been unmotivated these past few days, I am still grieving, just like I always do when losing a dear pet of mine, or a friend of mine, or a parent, or the loss of my husband . . . but I do bounce back after a bit of quiet time lapses, and life goes on, for a while longer . . . until it doesn't. I would like there to be some sort  of place for people and their pets to reunite.Call it heaven or whatever . . . but it is all so uncertain . . . I have no concrete ideas about a "here after" . . . but, as I think to myself, as Fox Mulder said in the X-Files, "The truth is out there. . . ."

* * * 

Sasha Thurmond is an artist and writer who lives in Aiken, South Carolina. She is a graduate of Cornell University's MFA program where she majored in Fine Art and was a student of Steve Poleskie                      

Friday, August 31, 2012


I HAVE RECENTLY MET, through the Internet a very talented young writer from the Philippines named Rhea Gulin. Rhea has a blog called Outrageous Writer on which she posts book reviews and author interviews. Her most recent posting was an interview with Stephen Poleskie. The introductory paragraph is both thoughtful and insightful. We have included it below.

The greatest bewilderment I have in my life is the fact that I have lots of dreams. Writing of course, has always been my first love since God knows when, but when I discovered the enchanting world of visual arts such as photography and painting, I was drifted away from the straight path I am taking in becoming a writer. I have forced myself before to identify my main goal in life, so that I may have a full concentration towards it, but then I realized it was as impossible as sneezing with your eyes open. I was close to being doomed because of anxiety that time, little did I know, I need not to torture myself in focusing on one distinct dream. In fact, I have met someone who have materialized each and every bits of my creative dream.

The interview with Poleskie began in this manner:

Confiding with cliche is not my thing but I decided to do so for the sake of formality. I asked Mr. Stephen Poleskie about what he is an artist, specifically as a writer. Unlike other artists and writers who places fame before excellence as the sole definition of success, Poleskie isn't one of them.

"I find myself a person filled with the curiosity of life who writes for the pleasure of doing it, with the secondary hope that other people might enjoy what I have written and perhaps even find their lives altered by it."

He admitted on our online interview that somehow, he was an outcast during his childhood, but he didn't loathe that fact for it was the threshold that lead him unto the doors of arts and writing.

"I started school a year early, so being the smallest boy in the class was constantly bullied. I preferred staying in my room working on my stories and drawings to being outside playing games with the other children."

In spite of the vivid pungency of excellence in his work, he didn't have any formal training in terms of writing, and his skills have just been developed through constant practice and practically his passion itself. In fact, he didn't pursue a concentration in it for he took a degree in Economics instead.

To read the rest of this very interesting interview, which also includes a lot of reproductions of Poleskie's artworks you can click on the link below:

Sidney Grayling
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Thursday, August 9, 2012


by Mike Foldes

My new family exists in cyberspace.
They are not Facebook friends,
Or acquaintances I manage on MySpace,
But the genetic links a cousin
in London who has no children
of her own discovered in her search
for a longer lifeline.
Except for Aunt Betty and Uncle Don,
and their three children, we lost touch
with my mother’s side long ago.
After my grandparents and great uncle
Died one after another in the early ‘50s,
Two cousins in London and another
In Alabama were all we thought
Remained on my father’s side –
But for one who was said to have come
to New Jersey in the ‘30s
and made a fortune as a profiteer.
Until this chain of strangers
Came to be, that is.
I’d not recognize any of them
were we to pass one another
walking our dogs on a quiet street,
even if we stopped to chat a bit
about pets, politics or the weather.
I went with my son to the Holocaust Museum
In Washington a few years ago
And discovered the Hungarian town “Foldes”
Was one of several on the map
Of “disappeared” villages, confirming
What I’d always known --
That we are the last of the last.
An Hungarian I met in Greece
Who is from the same industrial city
My father was born in said
he didn’t know there were any Jews
in Miskolc.
“That’s because they died in the camps.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said.
I am, too.
Then the e-mails began arriving
That the childless London cousin
had tracked down the profiteer’s family.
One after another, new names and faces
were added to the tree on Geni.
I watched the leaves grow – and wondered,
“Who are these people?”
“What do they mean to me?”
Really, we have nothing in common.
We did not grow up playing at the beach,
Hunting, fishing, or hiking together.
Our parents did not play pinochle, canasta
Or bridge past midnight, slapping cards
Onto the picnic table at the Brogue camp
On Great Sacandaga Lake.
Our children were not invited
To their birthday parties, nor they
To ours. We did not exchange cards
On holidays, attend weddings,
Break bread at the same table,
Toast our elders on their 80th birthdays,
Share our grief at funerals.
The London cousin catalyzed
A clan whose whereabouts
is bittersweet. Now we share memories
of events that could have happened
but never did, and see the meeting
of parallel lines
That solely exists in cyberspace.


This poem has been published in the print edition of the Patterson Literary Review, Volume 40

Mike Foldes is the founder and managing editor of Ragazine, an online literary magazine.
Join Mike on MySpace & Facebook
Mike is also the author of Sleeping Dogs, A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping
Download at www.Smashwords.Com and www.Amazon.Com
Purchase the paperback at

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Sunday, July 22, 2012


Poleskie and his Pitts Special biplane, Ithaca NY, 1977

DURING THE 1970s AND 80s ARTIST STEPHEN (STEVE) POLESKIE, created numerous temporary artworks in the sky by flying an aerobatic biplane trailing smoke through a series of intricate maneuvers. He called these ephemeral events, which were sometimes accompanied by musicians and dancers on the ground, and parachutists in the air, Aerial Theater. Over the years he did performances above many cities in the USA including: New York, Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC, Richmond, and Toledo. In 1978 Poleskie disassembled his Pitts Special biplane, which he had rebuilt and specially painted and reassembled it in an art gallery in New York City to accompany a show of his drawings. You can see this on his web site link below. Poleskie's Aerial Theater was very popular in Europe, especially Italy, were his events in the sky were considered as the logical extension of the work of the Futurist artist Fedele Azari. Poleskie also was able to do performances in Germany, Switzerland, and the UK using borrowed or rented airplanes.

We have recently uncovered a 1984 film of Poleskie explaining what his Aerial Theater is about and showing some drawings of projects that he is working on before taking up his biplane and and flying through a piece. You can view this ten minute film by clicking on the "Art Flyer" link below. Poleskie also talks about his art, and flies a performance, with views from the cockpit, on the Channel 9 interview, which is the  third link below.

Steve Poleskie, Art Flyer
Stephen Poleskie web site
Poleskie Interview on NYC Channel 9

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ithaca NY, a Writer's Town and Our Hometown

ONAGER EDITIONS IS LOCATED IN ITHACA, NY, a town that is presently the home to many well-known writers. There have also been a considerable number of famous writers who lived there in the past. A recent article in Ploughshares magazine web site by Sarah Catteral gives an idea of what it is like to live in Ithaca today. We have posted the beginning of the article. You can read the rest by going to the link below.

ITHACA IS A SMALL CITY in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. It sits at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, surrounded by state parks, smaller towns, farms, and wineries. Like most other college towns it’s a little island of economic stability with liberal politics, an active cultural scene, and bartenders with PhDs. A single storm can drop three feet of snow in January or April, and that scares some people away, but outside of the mud seasons in late fall and early spring, it is beautiful here.

Ithacans love books. Used book stores proliferate, and on a weekday morning at the public library there’s often a line at the circulation desk. When our independent bookstore announced it would have to close in February 2011, over 600 individuals bought shares to resurrect it as a successful community-owned cooperative.

Throngs of writers live in and around Ithaca, and two of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2011 were by current residents Eleanor Henderson and Téa Obreht.

Resident literary writers (a very incomplete list):

Diane Ackerman, Rebecca Barry, Peggy Billings, Paul Cody, Leslie Daniels, Amy Dickinson, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Fulton, Laura Glenn, Brian Hall, Paul Hamill, Eleanor Henderson, Katherine Howe, Edward Hower, Phyllis Janowitz, Sorayya Khan, Jay Leeming, J. Robert Lennon, Alison Lurie, Katharyn Howd Machan, Jeanne Mackin, Anne Mazer, Dan McCall, Ken McClane, James McConkey, Maureen McCoy, Paul McEuen, Fred Muratori, Robert Morgan, Téa Obreht, Stephen Poleskie, Ernesto Quiñonez, Nick Sagan, Beth Saulnier, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Stephanie Vaughn, Helena Maria Viramontes, Paul West, Alexi Zentner.

Literary references:

Ithaca and its campuses appear in many works by writers listed and not listed above. Their characters drink in our bars, renovate houses, have affairs with graduate students, and fall to their deaths in the gorges. Diane Ackerman’s recent Cultivating Delight provides a literary naturalist’s view of her Ithaca garden through the seasons. Vladimir Nabokov taught literature at Cornell for fourteen years and lived in ten different homes around town. Lolita, Pnin, and Pale Fire are all partially set here.

Ploughshares Ithaca Article

Stephen Poleskie reading stories at the Lost Dog

Sunday, May 27, 2012

nothing uglier than the truth

nothing uglier than the truth

they were talking crime and true crime, making monsters out of men and men out of monsters. anthropomorphic. siobhan pointed to the serial killer case unfolding in new orleans. baxter couldn’t make his dinosaurs believable enough for the drunk writers to take seriously. photographs of the women who were raped, freed, raped again, freed again, and finally killed, convinced them all there’s enough cruelty in the world to fill the half-empty glasses of a million sick men. horace said there’s nothing uglier than the truth. siobhan wrote that down and took it as her own.

Mike Foldes

Founder/Managing Editor
Join us on MySpace & Facebook
Author of Sleeping Dogs, A true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping
Download at www.Smashwords.Com and www.Amazon.Com
Purchase the paperback at

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Friday, April 27, 2012

ACORN'S CARD, a novella and two stories

Stephen Poleskie, Acorn’s Card. Ithaca, NY: Onager Editions, 2011. 116 pp. $12.00 Paper. ISBN 978-1-60047-558-0

The blurb on the back of Stephen Poleskie’s Acorn’s Card declares the collection, a novella and two short stories, “out of the ordinary tales of living in America.” Yet after reading Poleskie’s work, “out of the ordinary” seems less than apt. Rather, Poleskie presents the incredibly ordinary – a reclusive man struggling to accomplish the tasks associated with everyday life, a Polish immigrant working to support his family, a suburban couple suffering from the flu and innocuous household worries. With sharp images and frank, direct prose, Poleskie transforms this “ordinary” material into captivating stories that draw readers into the characters’ worlds and leave them there to contemplate their own lives long after the tales have come to a close.

Acorn’s Card, the novella for which the collection is named, hinges upon extraordinary circumstances – John Acorn, a young man who enlists in Vietnam and then goes AWOL after his helicopter crashes during training drills, emerges from his mother’s attic after thirty years of hiding. In a close third-person narration, the novella follows John’s return to a changed world and his struggle to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, the loss of his mother and perhaps most strikingly, the challenges and freedoms of living out of the attic and in the everyday world. The story begins with John warring against his fears as he contemplates taking his first steps out of his mother’s house in order to retrieve the mail from across the street. Poleskie describes the challenge in painstaking detail: “He had been studying the street from the security of the house for most of the day, considering if and when he could safely cross – a decision not yet fully resolved in his mind when he stepped out onto the porch at dusk, reconciled to his fate” (3). John’s trip to the mailbox consumes the first nine pages of the eighty-eight page novella, yet at no point does the narration grow tiresome. Rather, Poleskie’s careful combination of sentiment, imagery, and flashback makes this ordinary task of fetching the mail seem like a feat of great import: “Suddenly, with a scream bursting from his throat, he ran down the rest of the steps and bolted across the asphalt. Eager, ignorant, and rasping with desire, John reached the mailbox. He hung onto it as if it were about to go somewhere” (6). From his first errand to the mailbox, to his calculated trips to the grocery store, John’s attendance to everyday chores reveals his pain and alienation and ultimately, highlights him as a man grappling with life as much as death.

“A Loaf of Bread,” the next story in the collection, details the plight of Polish immigrant, Jan Lesnachevski, who came to America to escape persecution for his role in organizing the Solidarity shipyard strikes. As in Acorn’s Card, the story focuses on Jan’s life long after this major turning point has passed. Now in the New World, Jan works long nights as a plumber, watching his children become more Americanized as he and his wife lose touch with their Polish roots yet fall short of becoming “true Americans”: “And while they worked hard to improve their knowledge of their adopted country, its history and its culture, they were forever circling outside, making the rounds, jostled and shoved, polite novelties, in demand until Poland’s plight had faded from the headlines” (91). “A Loaf of Bread” follows Jan on his way to work one night, after he buys a loaf of pasty white bread for his family’s breakfast and then proceeds to get lost on the wrong side of town. The loaf of bread, mass-produced and tasteless, becomes the emblem of the real American dream – for Jan and his family, it is undesirable but better than their other options.

The final story in the collection, “Flyer Bag,” truly highlights Poleskie’s ability to bring characters to life by immersing them in ordinary details. This short tale is set in the manicured backyard of a couple’s suburban home. Suffering, albeit mildly, from a late spring flu, they are revealed as quintessentially middle-class Americans, sitting “on a bench in their garden enjoying the sun with a resigned calmness – the way older people often do” and fretting over trivialities – their housecats, germs on shopping carts, and a plastic bag carried off by the wind. But once again, this story of the mundane is anything but dull, as Poleskie brings the scene to life with frank insights into the characters’ minds – “Realizing that their afternoon was already almost gone, wasted John supposed, they stood there breathlessly waiting for the white plastic bag to descend by itself” (113). Ultimately, the story becomes a commentary on middle-class, modern American life, where responsible citizens function as stewards of their own plot of land, chasing “the dozens of other bags, foam containers, pizza boxes, and soda cans” out of their front yards (112), but at the same time are immersed in privilege, revealed through their concerns with grocery store germs and a single, plastic bag caught up by a breeze.

Delving deeply into the lives of each of his characters, Poleskie presents three fast reads that satisfy on the page as much as they do hours later when the strikingly real images return to the mind to reveal their depth of meaning. Through these tales of the ordinary, Acorn’s Card reminds us that truly good fiction resides in the craft, not in extraordinary feats of plot.

~from Editions Bibliotekos, Spring 2012

- Jill M. Neziri, Fordham University.  
Jill M. Neziri, Ph.D. is a teaching fellow at Fordham University. She has published book reviews with Jacket. She is co-editor of the anthology, From the Heart of Brooklyn, and her poems appear there as well as in several literary magazines.
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Saturday, March 31, 2012

When Walt Whitman Played for the Philadelphia Eagles

A Excerpt from SCONTO WALAA, a novel by Stephen Poleskie, published in November 2012

THE NEXT YEAR the Eagles' number one receiver had demanded too much money when his contract was up for renewal so was sent packing. Whitman was moved up to the regular squad. He rode the bench and covered kickoffs, until the third game, when the former number two receiver, now number one, broke his ankle. Given his chance Walt made the most of it, even making a spectacular catch in the last seconds of the home game against the Eagles hated rivals the New York Giants. He hadn’t scored the game winning touchdown, but Walt Whitman’s grab had set up the three yard run that did.
About midseason some local sports pundit, remembering a famous writer with the same name who had lived just across the river in Camden, New Jersey had given our Walt Whitman the tag “The Poet.” Sconto now got to fume at headlines that read: The Poet snags six balls as Eagles trounce Skins. Wala did get to shout at his television set, and cheer, even spilling his beer, when The Poet had his bell rung and was driven off the field on a golf cart in the final game of the season. The Eagles made the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Poet, however, was suffering from a concussion and did not play. The Eagles were blown away in the first game, and the TV announcers kept speculating how much the offense missed Walt Whitman, with the camera frequently panning to him standing next to the player’s bench wearing mufti, his face a blank expression, as if he was attending a séance or some such thing.
Maybe it was the crack on the head, but Walt Whitman now believed he was a poet, or perhaps it was the tidy advance a “book producer” agent had garnered for him from a big-name publisher. Walter, who had to repeat the Freshman Writing Seminar at Wilbender College twice, sat down at this computer, which he had previously used mainly for viewing porn and playing video games, and, pecking away with two fingers and the help of a ghostwriter, shortly came away with a collection of poems he called Eagle Claws. This could kindly be described as free-verse doggerel about the joys of playing wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
Greased by large sums of publisher’s money, distinguished literary critics for major newspapers and magazines, who normally ignored first books of poetry, indeed any book of poetry, spit all over themselves slathering Eagle Claws with praise. Walt Whitman appeared on all the talk shows, including Oprah, and for nine weeks the book hovered near the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
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STEPHEN (STEVE) POLESKIE is an artist and writer. His artwork is in the collections of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York: and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Gallery in London, and the Museum Sztuki in Lodz. His writing, fiction and art criticism, has appeared in many journals both here and abroad. Among these are American Writing, Leonardo, Lightworks, Many Mountains Moving, Satire, SN Review, and Sulphur River Literary Review in the USA; D'Ars, and Spazio Umano, in Italy, Himmelschrieber in Germany, and Imago in Australia. He also has a story in the anthology The Book of Love, from W. W. Norton, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poleskie has published five novels and has taught, or been a visiting professor at twenty-seven colleges and art schools throughout the world, including: MIT, Rhode Island School of Design, the School of Visual Art in New York and the University of California, Berkeley. He has also been a resident at the American Academy in Rome. Poleskie is currently a professor emeritus at Cornell University. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife, the novelist, Jeanne Mackin. Additional information can be found on his web site: