Poetry at the Post-Budapest: Textiles, Connections & Natalia Toledo

“Huipil” by Natalia Toledo, as translated into English by Claire Sullivan

My skin bursts with the flowers etched upon my dress.

Anyone who has traveled to Mexico has seen a huipil, a traditional garment decorated by hand-woven designs, embroidery, ribbons or lace.

in Hungary there are beautiful embroidered blouses; many of the designs remind me of the huipeles or of Mexico. Some, depending on the region, are more decorated than others.

I am going to the fiestas to dance…

Photo courtesy of Comcast

There is one that is white with a few simple flowers at the collar that evoke the Mayan dress of the Yucatan. It causes one to consider the origins of the Mayas, their proposed Asian connection.

I don’t know anything about such matters except that when I try to decipher the indigenous languages of Mexico or Hungarian, I am totally confused.

Ruyadxie’ lii sica ruyadxi guragu’ guibá’,
ribaque chaahue’ lii ndaani’ guiña candanaxhi guiriziña

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 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 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 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

Poetry at the Post, Day 8: A Trip to Argentina!

“Running Water” by Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938), as translated by Muna Lee

May 30, 2014
May 30, 2014

Yes, I move, I live, I wander astray—
Water moving running, intermingling, over the sands…

I am obsessed with water Yes, clean, abundant water. After three years living on and off in Oaxaca, Mexico, I have lots of water stories. Oaxaca,Oaxaca is a city of scarce water.

I seem to be attracted to dry places. Now I am in the desert of Far West Texas, It is June and we are waiting for the rains. If all goes well, the rains will begin soon. They have already begun in Oaxaca.

Alfonsina Storni
Alfonsina Storni

When I read Storni’s poem “Running Water,” I can see and feel the water running….But wait! There is something else, an obstruction: “What are you doing here…/You, the stone in the path…?”

We all find those stones in our way. Sometimes, they are more than stones. They are boulders. I prefer to read the ending of this poem as hopeful. The stone in the path offers a diversion, another possibility. You can read the full poem here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse/26/3#!/20575067

Sadly, for Alfonsina Storni, the boulders of breast cancer and solitude were just too big. At 1:00 am on October 25, 1938, she left her room and walked down to the sea.Legend has it she just kept walking into the sea until she drowned. Her body was discovered later that day.

Here is a link to “Alfonsina y el Mar,” a hauntingly lovely song in memory of Storni. Composed by Ariel Ramírez and Félix Luna, it is sung here by Mercedes Sosa.

I read “Running Water” to the deer this morning. With poetry, you have to find your audience wherever you can. They were not impressed. They ran away.