Poetry at the Post, Day 20: Back Home for Last “Poetry at the Post” This Cycle

“Sophomores” by Meghan O’Rourke
From Halflife,
W.W. Norton & Company, 2007

It’s America, 1993, and the malls
are cool and clean. Don’t you know,
like me, no one gets out alive.

Morning Walk  Photo courtesy of John Jennings
Morning Walk
Photo courtesy of John Jennings

For my last “Poetry at the Post” this cycle, I decided—after 18 worldwide poets— to return home with a writer who has ties to this part of Texas.

I read O’Rourke’s Halftime several years ago and several of the poems touched me deeply. Yesterday afternoon, while dusting (so much endless dusting in the desert…) and rearranging books, I rediscovered Halflife. I flipped through it at random and settled on “Sophomores.”

As we know, a poet’s poem becomes something else in the hands of each reader. Shaped by personal experiences, we see things in them that perhaps were never meant to be.

Last fall, I spent a few months living in Medellin,Colombia in a high rise apartment within walking distance of an upscale mall. It was super: swank pool, tropical landscape and two large patios with views of the Andes and the city below. However, if I just wanted to step out for a walk and grab a bite to eat, pick up some milk, etc. I had to go to the mall.

The little I knew before hand about Medellin did not prepare me for the locals’ love of Malls. Everything is in the malls, including the supermarkets.

“Weren’t you scared in Colombia?” I’m often asked. Not necessarily but I was careful. However, I did have a fear that I would never “get out of the malls.”

Medellin My walk to the Mall
My walk to the Mall

Of course, O’Rourke’s poetry is so much more than malls and my musings on my past.

My favorite line from “Sophomores” is “I’m the princess with a hole in my heart.” I’ve felt like that before. Perhaps not a princess, but a woman with a “hole in her heart.”

I look forward to reading O’Rourke’s newest book The Long Goodbye, A Memoir.

Poetry at the Post, Day 19: Chuvash Poet, Gennady Aygi

“Five Matryoskas”by Gennady Aygi, as translated by Sarah Valentine

Russian-Matroshka Dolls  CC BY-SA 3.0
Russian-Matroshka Dolls
CC BY-SA 3.0

with an idea
You surround us
as with silk

When I was a child I had a set of Russian Matryoshka Dolls. I’m not sure who gave them to me, or whatever happened to them but I used to love playing with these wooden dolls, nesting and un-nesting them. Who knows? Perhaps these little dolls were the spark that guided me to major in Russian.

“Gennady Aygi (1934-2006) is widely considered to be one of the great avant-garde poets from the former Soviet Union.” The starkness of his poetry attracts me. In “Five Matryoshkas, a poem inspired by the birth of Aygi’s son, we begin in the center of the nest and move outward—in a series of five fragmentary moments. Each section is like each doll in itself—complete.

Here’s a video of Sarah Valentine reading a selection of Aygi’s poems:

Into The Snow, Selected Poems of Gennady Aygi, Translated by Sarah Valentine, Wave Books, 2011

And, an interview with Sarah Valentine by Tim Johnson on Marfa Public Radio:

Some great photos of the people of the Chuvash Republic:

Poetry at the Post, Day 17: Gone to Ghana with Kwesi Brewe

“The Search” by Kwesi Brewe

The past
Is but the cinders
Of the present;

The future

The smoke

That escaped

Into the cloud-bound sky.

2010 Opening Ceremony - Ghana entering CC BY 2.0v Jude Freeman
2010 Opening Ceremony – Ghana entering
CC BY 2.0v
Jude Freeman

Ghanaian poet, Kwesi Brewe (1928 – 2007), was a poet-diplomat in the tradition of a long line of poets from Chaucer to Octavio Paz.

“The Search” suggests for me life’s journey on the pathway for truth and wisdom. I find interest in this intersection of philosophy and religion, the East and the West:

When wise men become silent,
It is because they have read
The palms of Christ
In the face of Buddha.

Yes, there is “rain” in this poem. It’s as if my subconscious is witching for water. It is hot and dry in the West Texas desert. We await the rain.


Here’s some Sunday inspiration: “Fefeefe” by Gifty Osei

Today’s post is dedicated to my friends who will be teaching in Ghana next year.

Poetry at the Post, Day 16: ISTANBUL & “Thus Bare Shoulder’d”

“Thus Bare Shoulder’d” by Gülseli İnal, as translated by Sebnem Susam

Pale and forgetful I was
returning from the lands of rain on my wings raindrops…

which had fought with Zephyr

Yes, I am dreaming about rain in the hot desert and in this poem I found myself in the middle of a myth, a dream, the fairies. I could sense the wind—from the west, the raindrops. I felt the magic, the story.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Flora And Zephyr (1875)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – Flora And Zephyr (1875)

…be it yours
these crystal fingers thus bare shoulder’d be it yours this this rose-
leaved temple.

You can read the poem here: http://www.turkishpoetry.net/gulseliinal.htm

cc-by-sa-2.5 gittim gezdim muazzam yapmışlar böyle bir güzellik hiç görmemiştik
cc-by-sa-2.5 gittim gezdim muazzam yapmışlar böyle bir güzellik hiç görmemiştik


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 14: Bulgaria Anyone? да, Bulgaria!

Poetry at the Post, Day 14: Bulgaria Anyone? да, Bulgaria!

“Noah, The Carrier” by Kristin Dimitrova, as translated by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

The Season of Delicate Hunger Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry, Accents Publishing
The Season of Delicate Hunger
Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry, Accents Publishing

To Gilgamesh*, however, he’d spoken like this:

I freed a pigeon, but it returned.
I freed a swallow—same thing.

I was going to head next to Greece at The Post but decided to stop in Bulgaria along the way. Today’s poem is by Kristin Dimitrova, a Bulgarian poet whose work appears in the 2014 Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry The Season of Delicate Hunger, edited by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer .

Lake Pancharevo in southern Sofia

I like this poem because thematically it explores myth & legend and truth. We all have those friends who only tell you what you want to hear and then again, many times folks only hear what they want to hear. How much of religion or history is truth? As, we know, history is always written from the viewpoint of the victor, or dominant culture.

There is no way
Truth does not make a good legend
Yet legend is truth’s only carrier.

In an interview Dimitrova says, “I’d like American readers to know that Bulgarian poetry exists.” I must admit I know little about Bulgaria, well, okay, almost nothing.

You can read more about Dimitrova as well as the entire poem “Noah, the Carrier” here. There’s a fun twist at the end.



*The Gilgamesh is one of my favorite epics and we’ll be reading it in the Global Reading Group, a virtual literary salon.

Poetry at the Post, Day 13: BARBARA KÖHLER, German poet who rocks language!

Ingeborg Bachmann stirbt in Rom/Ingeborg Bachmann Dies in Rome BY BARBARA KÖHLER, as TRANSLATED BY ANDREW SHIELDS

June 14, 2014
June 14, 2014

And the borders of the German language
are mined with murderous accidents.

I began reading Barbara Köhler yesterday and I was completely taken in by her work. A contemporary poet born in the former East Germany, she creates new ways of exploring cultural cues in language. She’s precise but also ambiguous. Anyone who has studied a foreign language and lived an expat life understands this ambiguity.. you think you know but do you really?

Sometimes it feels like “breath and smoke.”

The full “Ingeborg Brachmann Dies in Rome” can be found here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/29583

Ingeborg Bachmann was an Austrian poet and writer who also explored the potential of language. A member of the post-WW II literary group, Group 47, Bachmann moved to Rome in 1953. She died in 1973 at the age of 47 following a fire in her apartment in Rome. According to the police, the fire was due to a burning cigarette.

Bachmann's  apartment in Rome photo licensed under CC by SA 3.0 DE
Bachmann’s apartment in Rome photo licensed under CC by SA 3.0 DE

But back to Barbara Kohler. While Kohler was an artist-in-residence”with Cornell’s Institute for German Cultural Studies, she presented the IGCS Cornell Lecture on Contemporary Aesthetics April 16, 2013. “Some Possibilities For Sailing In A Friendship: Und Weitere Weitere MöglichkeitenBarbara” is a multi media presentation that is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. “The performance pivots on what this prize-winning author cultivates poetically as ‘precision in ambiguity.'”


Now if I could just get a copy of her book of poetry Niemands Frau Gesange , or Nobody’s Wife Cantos, a retelling of The Odyssey. This is a must-read for any epic junkie like me—or at least so I’ve heard.

Poetry at the Post, Day 12: Czech Poet, Katerina Rudcenkova

“Yes, I live inside the piano” by Katerina Rudcenkova, as translated by Alexandra Büchler

June 3, 2014
June 3, 2014

Continuing my travels to the Czech Republic, I found the young Czech poet, playwright and photographer, Katerina Rudcenkova. What I’ve read of her work so far, I really like. It is fresh, yet powerful.

“Yes, I live inside the piano” is a short—3-line poem. For a quick poetry fix, you can read it here. It is fun with a twist at the end.


If you want to know more, you can listen to this interview with Rudcenkova on Radio Czech.

Covered by purple leaves
I’ll leave my roots under water…

Czech Switzerland National Park, photo courtesy of Olaf1541, as licensed under CC Share Alike 3.0
Czech Switzerland National Park, photo courtesy of Olaf1541, as licensed under CC Share Alike 3.0


I am looking forward to visiting the Czech Republic. How great that its first president Vaclav Havel was a poet!

In googling everything Czech this morning, I discovered Czech Switzerland—a National Park in northwestern Czech Republic. A fairly new National Park, it looks like a good place to visit.


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