Poetry at the Post-In Transit: Shelling Beans While Flying

A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski, as translated by Bill Johnston
Archipelago Books, 2013

When people can be divided by something the always will be.
It doesn’t have to be a river

As I waited for my flight across the Atlantic Ocean, I considered borders-those divisions that exist inside and out There’s the ocean, the language & the fear of crossing.

It’s the tension between wanting to go and wanting to stay.

…he invited me to at least come for the mushroom picking.

polish 2

But if you do not make the journey, you may not taste the pappardelle, the butter cream, the chanterelles.

But don’t give up, Never give up. It doesn’t always repay people, but maybe with you it will.

Whatever it is you love, you want, don’t give up.

Poetry at the Post, Day 15: Onward to Greece! —and a poem by Katerina Iliopouolou

On weakened legs I walked around the town the whole day. I took photographs” by Katerina Iliopoulou, as translated by John O’Kane

Ia Santorini-2009- Photo courtesy of Simm 1CC BY-SA 3.0
Ia Santorini-2009-
Photo courtesy of Simm 1CC BY-SA 3.0

The Hungarian photographer André Kertész with his walking (during thirty years) wore out the network of streets of at least three cities. Eighty-five now, confined (by grief) to his apartment…

Katerina Iliopoulou is a poet, artist and translator, who lives and works in Athens.

What I like this poem is the convergence of so many places that have personal meaning. The stream of images leading to an unexpected ending is quite wonderful too.

In Paris he photographed himself double closing his eyes and a crumpled half-opened white door reflecting in the mirror.

You can read more about Iliopoulou and the entire poem here: http://iliopoulou.wordpress.com/bio/

Andre Kertesz (1894 - 1985)  Circus, Budapest, 19 May 1920 Denver Art Museum #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014
Andre Kertesz (1894 – 1985)
Circus, Budapest, 19 May 1920
Denver Art Museum

Poetry at the Post, Day 11: “Contempt” by Elfriede Jelinek

“Contempt” by Elfriede Jelinek, as translated by Michael Hoffman

Panoramic on the Alps Austria 3 July 2009 Photo courtesy of Friedrich Böhringer  under CC Share Alike 2.5 License
Panoramic on the Alps
3 July 2009
Photo courtesy of Friedrich Böhringer under CC Share Alike 2.5 License

my puppet-strings are the
sweet decaying lamps I flutter around.

Two of my besties from Spalding University will meet me in Budapest later this month. We’ll be traveling on to Vienna for a mini trip before we meet up with the rest of our program in Prague. In celebration of our upcoming trip—and out MFA graduation in Berlin, I decided to read an Austrian poet this morning. #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014 #threemfagradsonthetraintowien

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004, Jelinek is a controversial writer, mainly due to her political activism, strong feminist stance, & affiliation with the Communist Party—all of which are important to her work. As Jelinek suffers from agoraphobia, she did not attend the Nobel Prize award ceremony but instead sent this video.


I’m not sure yet what I think about this poem. My take away from this morning’s reading is this:

your stupid silence I will just
toss up in the air.

For me, these words are powerful. I think they suggest that we should have contempt for those who refuse to speak out against injustice and oppression. Im reminded of the importance of “voice” and standing up when the situation demands it. Not always easy.

I do wonder if I would be able to do so in a situation where my speaking out could lead to imprisonment,torture, or worse. I’m afraid I would not. Instead, I will try harder to chip away at any infractions of intolerance and discrimination that I encounter.

I never understood age discrimination until I got older—and, believe me, it is rampant. I refuse to allow age to define me and I speak up whenever I can.

“Contempt,”however, does make me curious to read more of Jelinek’s work. Here’s the full poem.


June 2, 2014
June 2, 2014

Poetry at the Post, Day 10: One-Act Play by Ferenc Molnar

A Matter of Husbands by Ferenc Molnar (1878-1952), as translated by Benjamin Glazer

FAMOUS ACTRESS: You wished to see me?
EARNEST YOUNG WOMAN: [She gulps emotionally] Yes.
FAMOUS ACTRESS: What can I do for you?
EARNEST YOUNG WOMAN: [Extends her arms in a beseeching gesture] Give me back my husband!
FAMOUS ACTRESS: Give you back your husband!

June 1, 2014
June 1, 2014

For June first day, I decided to mix it up and select a one-act play. I’ve been googling around looking up everything Hungarian in preparation for my upcoming trip to Budapest and discovered Ferenc Molnar. #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014

You can read the entire one-act play here: http://www.one-act-plays.com/comedies/matter_of_husbands.html

Ference Molnar photo courtesy of Carl Van Vechten
Ference Molnar
photo courtesy of Carl Van Vechten

Born in Budapest, Molnar emigrated to the United States during World War II. His most popular play is Liliom, which was letter adapted into the musical Carousel.

For some Sunday morning inspiration, here is “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel a la Celtic Woman.

I read the first part of A Matter of Husbands to the horse this morning. He seemed to like it.

Reading Molnar to my neighbor
Reading Molnar to my neighbor

The Poetics of Laundry—A Garden Looking To Be Tamed


Doing the laundry is akin to reading The Iliad. There is the ritual of loading the washer. If not done regularly, the task of clean clothes becomes a burden. Such is the work of The Iliad. If a commitment to read daily is not made, your charge to push through to the end of it seems overwhelming.

A charge it is as the description of war takes up at least half of The Iliad. And no two battles are the same. “…every battle rises above the last in greatness, horror, and confusion.” (Alexander Pope)

Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus by Nikolai Ge
Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus by Nikolai Ge

In Oaxaca, my life is easy. I stuff my clothes in a bag and carry them up a cobbled pathway and drop them off at Lavanderia Burbumatic. Some days, it is loco at the laundry. The mound of clothes is a Mount Olympus.

I imagine the lavandera lifting her head from those mounds and crying “Oh dear brother, help us! Give us your horses—so I can reach Olympus….” (The Iliad, 5: 359-60, as translated by Robert Fagles.)

I don’t know how they keep it all straight yet week after week whatever I put in in that bag, I get back—unlike at home. There a sock-eating Cyclops that lives inside my washing machine. He must. How else could so many sock “singlets” go missing?

My comrades left me here in the Cyclops’ vast cave…It’s a house of blood and gory feasts, vast and dark inside. (The Aeneid, as translated by A. S. Kline) Oops! Mixing classics.

The Cyclops by Odilon Redon
The Cyclops by Odilon Redon

Burbumatic must be monster free as my socks, like vowels in Ionic diphthongs, are reunited and layered between the pants and leggings. Each piece of clothing is folded art, a cotton origami.

Budapest is in my future. I’m very excited. I will miss Oaxaca, my neighborhood laundry, yet soon I’ll be walking the streets of Buda looking for my local patyolat. Patyolat??

Spoiler alert! At last, when young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shown once more, …the Trojans buried Hector breaker of horses. (The Iliad, 24:926, 944, as translated by Robert Fagles.)

Achilles Slays Hector
Achilles Slays Hector

We’re reading The Iliad this May in the Global Reading Group, a virtual literary salon. Contact me to join @ alicecatherinej@gmail.com. And, it’s not all battles! We’re looking at food too!


The Hungarian National Epic

Nikola Šubić Zrinski's Charge from the Fortress of Szigetvár
Nikola Šubić Zrinski’s Charge from the Fortress of Szigetvár by Johann Peter Kraft, 1825

I’m addicted to epics! I admit it. I’ve read 13 of them so far but a few days ago I stumbled upon The Siege of Sziget, the Hungarian national epic. Where had this one been hiding? Within the Hungarian language, apparently, as it has only recently been published for the first time ever in English. (THE SIEGE OF SZIGET by Miklos Zriny, as translated by László Kõrössy. Catholic University of America Press, 2011.)

The Siege of Sziget is a latecomer in the European epics. Written in 1647 by Miklós Zríny, it tells the story of the final battle of another Miklós Zríny (the author’s great granddad) against the Ottomans in 1566. The Ottomans were the victors but at a heavy cost with 20,000 Turks lost including Sultan Suleiman, their leader. However, it stopped the Ottomans from pushing forward towards Vienna that year and so from the Christian point of view, the Battle, although a loser, was successful.

From the the little I have read so far, The Siege of Sziget has all the characteristics of the traditional epic. It begins with an invocation to a Muse; there is a bloody battle; and things get mixed up (or conveniently arranged depending on one’s point of view) by the interference of the gods, or in this case, God. I’ll be adding The Siege of Sziget to the list of upcoming epics in the Global Reading Group, a virtual literary salon, so send me a note if you’d like to read along. http://moiramcpartlin.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/epics-on-global-scale.html

For more info on The Siege of Sziget and its translation, visit


And, as an extra bonus, here is Szigeti veszedelem, or The Siege of Sziget , in Hungarian.


Suleiman the Magnificent

Suleiman the Magnificent as a young man by Nakkas Osman, 1579.
Topkapi Palace Museum
Istanbul Turkey
Photo courtesy of Bilkent University

Something of interest I discovered was that Suleiman, known as Suleiman the Magnificent, was also a poet and a big time supporter of the arts during his 46 year reign. Most of his poems were written to his wife, the daughter of an Orthodox priest who had been abducted and sold as a slave in Constantinople. Reportedly, the great Suleiman was quite mad about Hurrem Sultan—so much so that she was the only one of his harem he made his legal wife. You can read one of his lovely ghazals here: http://www.ottomansouvenir.com/General/Turkish_Poetry.htm#Gazel6#lateantiquitystudiesBudapest2014

My weekly prompt (feel free to use it too): Write a ghazal. Here are some words to consider incorporating in the poem: to crush, to blow, to swell, stiff-necked, Constantinople, blanket, and blood. Use a title of rank and the imperative “Believe, believe…”