Thursday, December 28, 2006

december annogram

Hi everyone, hope you are having a wonderful Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa season. I am celebrating two poems in, a special issue that focuses happily on artists. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Poetry at the Hudson River Museum
While at the monthly Westchester Amateur Astronomers meeting, I stumbled into a November 10 reading by poet Kathleen Ossip. Kathleen won the 2002 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Award for The Search Engine (The American Poetry Review, 2002). Kathleen models many poems after work by greats such as Eliot and Bishop. I particularly enjoyed her local color (“Geese on the Median of the Saw Mill Parkway”) and in lines such as “Let us go to Tuckahoe. Let us meet at the duck pond…” (“The Pleasure of Your Company”). A tough critic, I found myself engaged by Kathleen’s unusual wordplay and strong metaphors.

Discovering the new Hudson River Museum
Walking around the museum gave me a chance to appreciate its improved appearance—the dramatic rectangular entrance and improved interior lighting gives it a more comfortable feel. I enjoyed photographs by Yonkers native and professional photographer Guy Gillette—classic pictures of Audrey Hepburn and others dating back to the 1940s. I also welcomed paintings and prints of the stark Maine landscape by late artist Neil Welliver. With both exhibits up until January 7, you can shake your winter doldrums by taking them in.

French poet at Sarah Lawrence
Thanks to Meredith Trede for dragging me out of my winter stupor to attend a reading by French poet Marie Borel at Sarah Lawrence College. Marie, accompanied by translators Sarah Riggs and Omar Berrada, read from her book Trompe-Loup and its translation, Wolftrot (Fence Books, 2006). Like a performance, all three wove an intriguing narrative in English and French. Reappearing characters and themes connect the poems. Congratulations to Marie, Sarah and Omar on their joint translation project!

Hip bone’s connected to….
Bodies: The Exhibit at South Street Seaport features human bodies preserved in acrylic and then sliced to expose bones, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and organs. Although it sounds grizzly, the exhibit is an extraordinary experience for lay people—and there were lots of EMS workers and physical therapists on hand to relish the opportunity. I developed a new appreciation for our delicate innards—and the impact upon them of what we consume and breathe. While grateful for the experience, I felt sad for the bodies—rumored to be prisoners in Asia—that they ended up this way.

French Film Festival
My Francophile-neighbor Susan lent me three French DVDs recently: “The Child” (Sony Pictures Classics, 2005), by Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne, follows two adolescent lovers who give birth to an infant. While the young mother takes to her new role, her petty-thief partner promptly sells their baby. The plot spirals from there—and I wondered who is the real “child”? The baby, unsuspecting mother or misguided father?

“A Very Long Engagement” (Warner Independent Pictures, 2003) takes place in World War I France. Audrey Tatou (“Amelie”) sets out to find her soldier lover, supposedly executed for his attempt to desert. This film vividly portrays the horrors of war and tenacity of one woman who believes against all odds that her soul mate is alive. “A Very Long Engagement” achieves the feel of a detective story as Tatou inches closer to answers.

The best was “Ridicule” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 1996), a film by Patric LeConte set in the pre-revolutionary court of Louis XVI. An aristocrat farmer heads to Paris to beg the king to drain the swamps that are causing pestilence and death in his region. To get the king’s attention, he must play into the hands of the court and often violate his own values. While a fascinating story, the film also affords what feels like an accurate glimpse into that era’s unmerciful court culture.

Toadlily Press open reading
Toadlily is considering manuscripts for its yearly book during January. Each book incorporates chapbooks for four different poets. The books are beautifully designed and thoughtfully marketed by Toadlily editors who are themselves poets passionate about their craft. See the web site for more details.

The Westchester Review
This new literary journal includes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry by 45 Westchester writers. Buy the journal for $8 at Bronxville Books/Womrath Bookshop in Bronxville, Elaine S. Feiden Rare Books in Mamaronneck, Reading Writing & Wrapping in Scarsdale, and The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville. To order a copy send your check to: Stanley Sokol, 10 Stewart Place, 6GW, White Plains, NY 10603.

The greats, one morsel at a time
Poet Linda Simone alerts us to DailyLit, a free daily e-mail service that delivers under-five-minute bites of classics from Aristotle and Austen to Shakespeare and Sinclair.

UN redux
So many people were intrigued by my reading at the United Nations. Here is a good summary:

CD Wright on publishing
Poet Myrna Goodman sent me this wonderful commentary, by one of my favorite poets, on publishing—often an angst-ridden path for us poets:

It depends upon how you count books. There are chapbooks, book books, and then there are just early, if not premature, books of a dubious class, that need to be released so that the other book, the one you intended to write, can be written.
Poet Frank Stanford read my poems and accepted them on behalf of Irving Broughton, his own publisher at the time. I was a third-year graduate student. The press, Mill Mountain, was based in Seattle at the time and is now defunct. It was a perfect-bound chapbook on ivory, laid paper, titled Alla Breve Loving. The title (and the paper, Warren Olde Style) had to be its strongest features. The next two chapbooks, Room Rented by a Single Woman and Terrorism came out from Lost Roads Publishers which was initially Frank Stanford’s press. I shared the purchase of equipment with him, but he was the sole editor. The reason he provided for starting the press was that he knew a lot of talented poets who had no ready access to publication. At least in my case he could have added ‘no wherewithal with respect to publication.’ After Stanford’s death I was the sole editor for a time.
My first full-length collection came out from SUNY Albany. It was chosen by Paul Zweig and C.K. Williams. Paul Zweig died before the book came out, and I don’t think C.K. continued the editorship after his friend’s death. The managing editor Nancy Sharlett (now also deceased) shepherded the book through the process, and though she was in charge of the administrative details and I was living in Mexico, she stayed in close contact with me, and I felt I had made bona fide contact with the somewhat larger publishing world. It was beautifully produced. The title itself remains one of my favorites, Translations of the Gospel Back into Tongues. And I had by that time learned a couple of things about writing I hadn’t learned before. I would come to include about half of the poems from Translations in Steal Away, my selected poems.
It’s an ongoing challenge and chore—the reading, writing, editing, and publishing process. The beginning doesn’t need to be perfect. I started locally and would not have known how to do otherwise. My standards grew more demanding regarding my own work over time, as I began to apprehend what I could and could not make happen with twenty- six letters and a limited skill set. I’ve never stopped seeing my first job as the one that requires my own development as a writer without respect to a promising publishing outcome. This view has not spared me some intense disappointments, but it has been my only reliable barometer. With respect to publishing in magazines, I aim for company I want to keep. With respect to publishing with presses, I put a premium on mutual respect, high production values, a various and ever-evolving list, and a serious endeavor toward distribution— would that I had managed all of the same for the poets who published with Lost Roads.
I know things have changed. I know the proliferation of writing programs and contests have rewarded some and embittered others. I know my experience holds only a partial example up to today’s conditions. One aspect of that example is to start where you are. That’s the geographical part. The internet’s addendum to that option is, start on-line. And in tandem with both options, start the publishing mechanism yourself—a journal, a book press, a reading series, a book club, a web-mag, a blog. The beginning will not likely be perfect. Not only do I see these as legitimate starting points, but I see the core action and much of the most astonishing and enduring writing through the history of the whole literary project as having come out of such initiatives. So there.

Wishing us all imperfect and legitimate starting points!


Friday, November 03, 2006

your fall annogram

Welcome to your fall annogram! Yes, I did let September and October slip by—so this will be full of my activities during that time. Hope you are enjoying this glorious and crisp weather.

Reading at the United Nations
What a thrill it was to read at the United Nations in early September! The event, part of an annual NGO conference, was co-sponsored by The Light Millennium, a Turkish organization; and Respectful Interfaces, a UN group. We had a wonderful cross-cultural experience—with people such as Muzaffer Baca, vice president of the International Blue Crescent, reading beloved Turkish poets Nazim Hikmet Ran (1902-1963) and Orhan Veli Kanik (1914-1950), and musical interludes from Persian Amir Vahab and his Soroosh Ensemble (see URL to sample his music). Award-winning poets Terry Dugan, Timothy Liu, Kevin Pilkington, Linda Simone and I added our Western voices.

Sea Stories
My poem, “Landfall,” is in the autumn issue of Sea Stories. The journal is a project of the interdisciplinary Blue Ocean Institute, founded by a MacArthur fellow to encourage ocean conservation. Whether you want to learn what seafood to eat, or what research the Institute is doing, this web site is full of ocean-loving facts.

Online quarterly online ActionYes features my translation of the opening to Helene Sanguinetti’s first book, Left-hand Exploring (Flammarion, 1999). What’s cool is that you can mouse-over the translation to see the original French and the page includes a drawing by Helene’s brother Alain. I am looking for a publisher for this translated manuscript and welcome any suggestions or direction.

New translation focus
A sample of Helene’s second book is on the home page of my web site and a new manifesto on translation. Let me know what you think!

What a pleasure to see the Weston Playhouse production of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses. Zimmerman selected myths from Ovid (43 BCE – 17 AD) and updated them with an American sensibility. The result is a contemporary re-telling of common and not-so-common tales. I enjoyed hearing director Steve Stettler discuss the production prior to the play. According to Stettler, Ovid (pronounced Ah-vid) was a “New York Times Bestseller” of his day—conveying 250 Greco-Roman myths in his 15-volume work, Metamorphoses (8 AD)—to a sophisticated Roman audience. He added that the play, which deals with classic human emotions, opened in New York days after 9/11 and provided a cathartic experience for most attendees. I laughed and cried too.

Editors and Agents Panel at Manhattanville
A free editors and agents panel, on November 7 at 7 p.m. in the Dowd-O’Gorman Writing Center at Manhattanville College, offers a rare opportunity to hear publishing professionals discuss their requirements. It will feature Abby Zidle, senior editor, Harlequin Books; Eric Levy, senior acquisitions editor, Wesleyan University Press; Mitchell Waters, an agent at Curtis Brown; and Martha Hoffman with Judith Erlich Literary Management.;11;7;12;0&lastcmd=0&rt=2006;11;7;19;0;0;

Inside scoop on small presses
What’s it like to be a small press publisher? Find out at Toadlily Press Poets and Publishers Tell All: A free panel discussion on the Small Press “scene” on November 5 at 2 p.m. at the North Castle Public Library, 19 Whippoorwill Road East, Armonk, NY (914-273-3887). Refreshments follow panel and reading. Can’t make that event? Hear Toadlily poets Pam Hart and Victoria Givotovsky read at Bernard's Inn, 20 West Lane/Route 35, Ridgefield, CT (203-438-8282). Luncheon ($25) follows the free reading.

Richard Ford on the writing process
I heard a fascinating interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show and recommend it to all my fiction-loving, narrative-writing friends (you know who you are).

Eating through Vermont
I am taking a detour from the arts to tell you about Fat Frank’s in Bellows Falls, Vermont. My husband and I were intrigued to sample the food at “the wurst place in Bellows Falls.” While Michael enjoyed the franks, I had a savory veggie burger that Frank makes himself out of—vegetables (doh!). To quote Frank, he feels a veggie burger should taste like “vegetables.”

I leave you with Mary Zimmerman's quote on the message of myth: “Don’t lose sight of the fact that there is still beauty in the world, and there is still love in the world, and these simple pleasures in the world, which are indelible.”


Monday, August 28, 2006

your august annogram

Reading at the United Nations
I’m thrilled to be reading September 7 at the U.N. Vision and Millennium Development Goals Speak Through The Arts program. With award-winning poets Terry Dugan, Kevin Pilkington and Linda Simone, the reading will celebrate themes of global partnership and respect.
Thanks to the Poet Laureate of Rikers Island, a.k.a. Jackie Sheeler, for publishing my poem, “Girls Night Out,” on her website. If you haven’t read the great New York Times article on Jackie’s poet laureate role, here it is: Scroll down to find my poem.

New translation section
See the new translation section on my website and a translation of one of my favorite passages from Helene Sanguinetti’s second book, Hence, this cradle (Flammarion, 2003).

More Helene in Mantis
Mantis 5, a journal out of Stanford, has published a selection from my translation of Helene’s first book, Left-hand Exploring (Flammarion, 1999). I like this journal “of poetry, criticism and translation”—especially the interview with poet Alfred Arteaga. I have to agree when he says

The sad fact is that I dislike almost all poetry that I read. Let me put it this way: I think that the vast majority of poetry I read is basically good, but it doesn’t really excite me. So as a result I end up not wanting to read the stuff, because I get disappointed.

Brattleboro Museum and Art Center
This museum knows how to do things right: Last month, it hosted a Community Day outdoor event replete with live jazz, BBQ, Thai food and homemade ice cream. The community could stroll inside to see the new exhibits for free. Artist Angela Virsinger and I took advantage of the celebration to see some amazing art (below).

Wolf Kahn Retrospective
Wolf Kahn creates landscapes in vivid, unexpected pastels that simply arrest the viewer. “Landscape of Light, 1953-2006” touches each decade of his career—which began in the 50s in New York and then migrated north to Vermont vistas. I was astonished to turn a corner and discover a vibrant portrait of Frank O’Hara—all multicolor brushstrokes that communicate the poet’s nervous energy. That’s when I realized Wolf Kahn had been part of the New York School phenomena. Angela and I met Mr. Kahn who, with a head of white hair, now has a distinguished Robert Frost quality.

Faith Ringgold Stories in Quilts and Colors
The author of children’s books such as Tar Beach, My Dream of Martin Luther King, and The Story of Rosa Parks that alone put Faith Ringgold in the American literary canon. She also silk-screens awesome quilts such as “The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles,” where Vincent Van Gogh approaches famous African-American women such as Sojourner Truth, Fanny Lou Hamer and Rosa Parks. Now that’s cross-cultural creativity! You have to love this woman for capturing African American history with such whimsy.

Secrets by Gloria Garfinkel
Don’t you hate “Don’t touch” signs in a museum? Gloria Garfinkel encourages viewers to open doors on her mixed media canvases—and discover two- and three-dimensional trinkets, sayings and bric-a-brac. The 10 canvases, whose secrets range from “Beauty” and “Religion” to “Vice,” invite reflection on disturbing events such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the AIDS crisis in China. “The political and social content of her work does not overwhelm its poetry,” say curator Mara Williams.

Vermont photographer
While we’re focusing on Vermont, visit the website of Sue Mardirosian: Sue has an incredible range—from Ansel Adams-like forests to inventive manipulations of light.

Book review
The Fifth Voice (Toadlily Press, 2006). The Toadlily editors once again have created a fabulous quartet of poetry chapbooks, with a gorgeous cover photo of autumn leaves floating in water. Out of the four poets, I loved Hart’s work—especially “Obon” and “I Go For A Walk with Frank O’Hara”. I also enjoyed the work of Ohio postman Allen Strous who explores his roots with “dark clarity.” That’s the beauty of a volume like this—you get to pick and choose your favorites.

That’s all for now. Take advantage of these last summer weeks to take in some art or get some pleasure reading in.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

your july annogram

Hello and welcome to annogram, my monthly poetry + arts e-newsletter. We have some new readers this month so I want to say a special welcome to you. If you or anyone else would like to stop receiving this newsletter, simply send me a note with the subject line, “No thanks Ann.”

Woo-hoo! Ann’s a Dancing Girl
Big news this month: Dancing Girl Press has accepted my chapbook manuscript, Sugaring, for publication this March. A chapbook is a small book of 20-30 poems. Many poets start their book publication this way. I am thrilled and thank everyone who has encouraged me on my poetry path.

Hélène Sanguinetti in Octavo
Thanks to Octavo retiring editor Andrew Boobier for publishing a selection from Hélène Sanguinetti’s Left-hand Exploring. What makes Hélène’s work so special is the way she mixes genres, from poetry and dialogue to narrative and journaling. Octavo brings together all the journal entries. If you’d like a taste of her genius, check out Octavo.

New Poet Laureate of Greenburgh
Greenburgh has one of the oldest and most esteemed poetry contests in our area—so it makes sense that the town should have a Poet Laureate. I am thrilled to announce that Brenda Connor-Bey will fill this role. Brenda, a much-loved poetry teacher, is the author of Thoughts of an Everyday Woman/An Unfinished Urban Folktale (Blind Beggar Press).

Deborah Coulter Works on Paper
Deborah Coulter’s charcoal drawings at the Bendheim Performing Arts Center in Scarsdale attain a wild three-dimensional, brush-like quality. They pull the eye in—almost suggesting something concrete and yet never truly yielding to any one idea. Deborah says she likes to “play with space” and that’s what these drawings do in a novel way. Take a look at the Lesley Heller Gallery and see what you think:

The Drowsy Chaperone
This five-time Tony winner is a delightful send-up of the American musical—replete with sequined costumes, big sets, funny songs and tap-dancing. The Drowsy Chaperone combines humorous 21st century savvy with an affectionate look back when theater seemed bigger than life. My husband, Michael, and I also enjoyed meeting Kecia Lewis-Evans who plays Trixie the Aviatrix—a stellar singer with an amazing resume of theater credits.

The Al Gore Film
While cruising Central Ave for a movie, my friends and I pulled into the Scarsdale Fine Arts to see “An Inconvenient Truth.” We had no idea it was the Al Gore film. The newspaper ad featured penguins, and the movie poster left us clueless. Standing on line, we figured out what it was. I have to recommend everyone see this film. Our former president elect is thoughtful, passionate and convincing on the topic of global warming. The movie mixes his worldwide lectures with reflections on his personal life.

Book reviews

Mikhail, Dunya. The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005). What is it like to be an average citizen living in Iraq? The thought is almost too much to bear. Dunya Mikhail, an Iraqi poet who has sought asylum in the U.S., shares her experience of life under Sadaam and in her war-torn home in forceful and original poems. Her title poem comments:

The war continues working, day and night.
It inspires tyrantsto deliver long speeches,
awards medals to generals
and themes to poets.

Dealing with the theme of separated lovers, she writes in “Non-Military Statements”:

I dream of a magic wand
that changes my kisses to stars.
At night you can gaze at them
and know they are innumerable.

If you care to learn what war does to people, then you need to read this book.

Toomer, Jean. Cane (WW Norton, 1988). Thanks to Brenda Connor-Bey for giving me this book. Jean Toomer (1894-1967), an extraordinary writer, combines poetry and hymns in wrenching short stories about African Americans struggling to find dignity and community in the early 20th century. His lyrical language and concern for the outcast reminds me of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee (1909-1959). Toomer achieves what great literature can often do—let the contemporary reader experience the human heart in another time.

Weinberger, Eliot, ed. The World Beat (New Directions, 2006). Translator Eliot Weinberger has assembled the best of New Directions’ world poets in this volume—poets ranging from Anne Carson to Bei Dao. What struck me the most was the first poem by Octavio Paz, “Response and Reconciliation”, never published until now. The poem echoes Eliot’s Four Quartets in its meditative focus on “time maker of roses and plutonium.”

Wishing you thoughtful and fulfilling summer reading,