Sunday, November 30, 2008

your holiday annogram

There are too many great things going on…so here’s your holiday annogram a month early. First, you can find my poems in If Poetry Journal (scroll to “Kerning” below Superman article), Protest Poems, and Umbrella Journal. Then, we have assorted reviews and some soap thrown in for good measure—so read on!

Hence this cradle review in Absinthe
Thanks to Notre Dame Visiting Scholar and translator Anne Magnan-Park for her thoughtful review of Hence this cradle (Seismicity Editions) in Absinthe: New European Writing. Ms. Magnan-Park accurately describes Hence, my translation of Hélène Sanguinetti’s second book, as “a series of kaleidoscopic narratives through opening lines that function as a sibylline compass” and praises the translation as a “welcome dépaysement.”

Isabelle Garron and Rosmarie Waldrop at St. Mark’s Poetry Project
What a pleasure to hear Isabelle Garron read from Face Before Against (Litmus Press), a book my Seismicity Editor Guy Bennett calls “one of the most compelling works of French poetry to have been published in recent years.” Beloved poet and noted translator Rosmarie Waldrop, founder of Burning Deck Books, also read, treating us to intellectually playful prose poems. I’d never been to St. Mark’s—and the enjoyable event attracted a full house of noted translators and poets.

Inside The New York Times Book Review
Driving I-95, I stumbled on this WQXR (96.3 FM) program two Fridays ago at 6:05 p.m. Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus interviews his reviewers about book events such as the National Book Awards. I was thrilled to hear my poetry teacher, Mark Doty, won the National Book Award for his collection, Fire to Fire (Harper Perennial). You can download podcasts of the program although I could not find a web site.

Anne-Marie McIntyre Open Studio
See the colorful, whimsical ceramic work, paintings and drawings by Hastings resident Anne-Marie McIntyre, December 5, 6 and 7, 12 noon to 5 p.m. at Studio 339, 145 Palisade Street in Dobbs Ferry. “Come and visit,” says Ms. McIntyre, “I have a lot of beautiful new work!” You can see this is true by visiting Studio 339 online. Before attending the Open Studio, please call 917-685-3516.

Book review: Désert
by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
Désert (Gallimard, 1980), parallels two stories: The journey of a contemporary girl from desert shantytown to Marseilles, and the flight of her Arab ancestors from soldiers bent on their destruction. Mr. Le Clézio, this year’s Nobel Prize winner for literature, captures the desert’s brutality with a lyricism that evokes the painter Rousseau (translation mine):

It was as if there were no names, here, as if there were no words. The desert wind washed all, erased all. Men had the freedom of space in their eyes, their skin like metal. Sunlight exploded everywhere. The sand ochre, yellow, gray, white, the light sand glistened, revealed the wind. It covered all traces, all bones. It pushed back light, it chased water, life, far from a center that no one would recognize. The men knew that the desert didn’t want them: so they walked without stopping, on paths that other feet had already run, to find something else. Water, it was in the aiun, the eyes, a sky color, or in damp beds of old mud streams. But this wasn’t water for pleasure, nor rest. It was only a trace of a glimmer on the desert surface, the parsimonious gift of a dry God, the last movement of life. Heavy water pulled from sand, which gave colic, which induced vomit. It was necessary to go further away, leaning in a little, in the direction given by the stars. (13-14)

Beyond the author’s narrative skill, the first story of desert nomads bears an uncanny likeness to the recent intervention in Iraq. This global insight, as well as literary skill, must have been a critical consideration in awarding the author the Nobel.

Book review: Qu’il faille by Isabelle Garron
Qu’il faille (Flammarion, 2007), poet Isabelle Garron’s fourth book, could be translated What may be necessary or What is needed. Gem-like stanzas on each page combine visual detail with a diarist’s reflective tone: Think of Jean Valentine’s emotional compactness combined with Brenda Hillman’s inventive punctuation (apologies to Eleni Siklelianos who is translating the book):

… & however! these deserts separating us is real today
as feeling your eyes cross the roses .. fffrrr .. fffrr
.. fffrrr Bagatelle roses .your hand new face this is ...

how to say & for this also .my silence .its voyage

This shorthand of well-placed image and telegraphed language suggests an unidentified emotional journey. Ms. Garron, like her colleague Hélène Sanguinetti, takes big and rewarding risks with language. It’s my pleasure to highly recommend this book. For more insight into her work, see the video interview at The Continental Review.

Film review: Un Conte de Noël (‘A Christmas Tale’)
Unfortunately, Père Noël brought a lump of coal with this one: Catherine Deneuve, a terminally ill matriarch, presides over a Christmas reunion of her three angry and estranged adult children. While the serpentine plot suggests one of the unstable offspring will do away with themselves—and honestly, I may have been wishing for that—the movie fails to transcend its tortured characters to find a satisfying resolution. IFC's Matt Singer praises this film as "one of the best dysfunctional family films" of the year, citing amazing performances and cinematic direction--which were both great. The most worthwhile part was recognizing dear friends seated in the row ahead!

‘Soap Makes People Happy’
That’s the Clean Ridge Soap Company motto and you’ll be delighted too with gift choices of natural scented soaps, lotions and scent diffusers. Shop online, call in a mail order or meet owner Mia Camacho-Fitzgerald in person December 14 at the new monthly winter Farmer’s Market at the County Center in White Plains—a treasure trove of fresh root vegetables, whole grain breads, quiches, and live music to boot.

’Round the Net

Thanks to:

· Artist Angela Virsinger for this great create-your-own-Picasso link.

· Frances Twiss for this inspiring story about our new president-elect.

· Madam Mayo for the National Book Critics blog, “Critical Mass.”

· ALTA member Erica Mena for this NPR story on translation.

· Composer Donald Sosin for this piece on re-scoring Superman cartoons.

· Cultural writer Julie Wiskirchen for this film panel review on “Doubt”.

· Poet Martie Palar for the link to literary videos on The Continental Review.

· Jackie Sheeler for turning me on to Good Reads, a book lovers’ site.

Thanks for participating in your annogram this past year with your encouraging comments and enthusiasm for each issue. May you have a holiday filled with wonder, peace, and good friends and family, as well as continued fulfilling creative work and rewards in 2009.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

your election annogram

We seem to be holding our breath as we await election results Tuesday, and realistically, Wednesday or Thursday as absentee and early votes are counted. I encourage everyone to vote, to exercise this great privilege we enjoy. I am voting for Barack Obama: He is the first candidate that I've admired personally as well as politically. He seems to be the ideal leader for our new global century--someone with an understanding and respect for different cultures and perspectives. And that's important, even in literature, as you will read below.

Alhambra Calendar now available
Never did I think I would be in one volume with the likes of Thomas Lux or Geoffrey Chaucer—but here it is! This calendar has received such positive response, that Alhambra will publish a book version for school use. I have last year's calendar in French, and it makes a great gift. If you know any of these languages, consider one in German, Italian or Spanish. Two more of my poems have also been accepted for the anthologies Cold Shoulders (Wising Up Press) and MOTIF: Writing by Ear (Motebooks).

Nobel Prize Winner in Literature
Last month Frenchman Jean-Marie Gustave LeClézio won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I am reading Désert, his break-out novel, about desert nomads and I have to say it is Nobel-worthy—rich in lyric and image. More importantly, it embraces another culture—something that, according to experts, has prevented an American from winning the prize. What do you think? Are we as a literary community “too insular” as the Nobel Prize committee suggests? Are you interested in global literature? Comment here on my blog.

New Mexico Skies
What a pleasure to spend three nights last month on a mountain in southern New Mexico, looking at stars with friends from Westchester Amateur Astronomers. We stayed at New Mexico Skies, a camp with a dozen observatories and telescopes for the serious amateur astronomer. The biggest reward was the naked-eye viewing—where we could see the Milky Way horizon to horizon, and every fall constellation bright and easily identifiable.

The Roswell Incident
One night in July 1947, rancher W.W. "Mack" Brazel was checking his sheep after a fierce thunderstorm when he noticed unusual metal debris scattered over a large area. Brazel then found a trench, several hundred feet long, gouged into the earth…a discovery leading to the Roswell Incident, believed to be a UFO crash site. The story—as much a part of American folklore as it is about its science—is thoroughly explored at the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico. Of course, at right, we intrepid Westchester Amateur Astronomy Club members (left to right: Angela and Mike Virsinger, Michael Cefola, Darryl Ciucci, and your annogram editor) find more suspicious debris at left.

The Ventures at BB King’s
For 50+ years, The Ventures, inducted this year into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, have toured playing their TV show themes “Secret Agent Man,” “The Outer Limits” and “Hawaii Five-O”—and hits “Walk, Don’t Run,” and “Perfidia.” Their instrumental genius transforms surfer music into dozens of new sounds, from the middle-eastern “Caravan” to Native American “Apache ‘65.” In the show’s final drum solo, Leon Taylor, the original drummer’s son, pounded his drums and grimaced as if the skins were about to burst—then took his drumsticks to play on Bob Spalding’s guitar in a mind-blowingly creative display. One reason why overflow crowds worldwide continue to flock to see this band.

Gigi Band national finalist
Gigi and the Lend-Me-A-Hand Band has been nominated on the Children’s Music Web Awards. Gigi’s “Movement and Merriment” album and original song, “I’m a Little Rabbit,” are up for first place in their categories. Congrats to Gigi; husband/bass player Larry; mom/ keyboardist Granny Franny; dad/roadie Grandpa John; drummer Guy; Guy’s wife/dance leader Patty; soulful sax player Paul; and my husband and lead guitarist, Michael.

Congrats to Linda Simone
Poet and associate director of the Manhattanville College Graduate Writing Program, Linda Simone, was featured in a great article on working poets in the Journal News. Linda also appears in the new anthology, Avanti-Popolo: Italian-American Writers Sail Beyond Columbus (Manic D Press, 2008), alongside poets such as Diane DiPrima and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Last month she and other poets in the book read at the Brecht Forum in New York City.

Toadlily Poets at Sarah Lawrence
On November 5, at 2:00 p.m. in the Pillow Room at the Sarah Lawrence College Library, join Toadlily Press poets for a panel discussion, “Conversations as Muse.” Then at 6:30 p.m., poets Marcia Arrieta, Michael Carman, and George Kraus will read from Toadlily’s latest volume, An Uncommon Accord. Reception follows the reading and both events are free.

Learning to see
Town of Greenburgh Poet Laureate Brenda Connor-Bey has launched a series of Learning to SeeTM workshops “to explore how painters, photographers, and others show us their worlds, and how writers can transform those visions into their own meaning.” Join poet Karen Rippstein in a Poetic Inspirations from Nature workshop at the Greenburgh Nature Center Saturdays, Nov. 8 and 15, 10 am – noon. For more inspiring workshops, see Brenda’s website.

Who Does She Think She Is?
Westchester’s beloved art historian, Beth Gersh-Nesic, recommends the film Who Does She Think She Is? A woman artist asks other women artists "how" and, more importantly, "why" they chose the male-centric visual arts path. See the documentary Sunday, December 9, at Jacob Burns Theater in Pleasantville at 7:15 p.m. On this topic, Linda Simone sent me this intriguing article about women and ambition.

Holiday shopping
If you watch the news, you’ll see a significant percentage of crime involves domestic violence. Join some savvy companies to make a difference: You can purchase a bracelet that says “Respect” for $5 from Macy’s and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, or the Body Shop’s Shea Lip Duo for $16.90 that lets you give one to a friend and keep one for yourself. Thanks to Kim Wells of the Corporation Alliance to End Intimate Partner Violence for updating me on these wonderful programs.

‘Round the Net
· What is it like to be on a hijacked jet? Friend and colleague Jim Barry writes about his pre-9/11 harrowing experience.

· Donald Sosin is at it again with a glorious, uproarious five-minute animation: “In Praise of Laziness,” starring humanity’s greatest thinkers.

· View more cutting-edge computer animation by up-and-coming artists at the Ringling College of Art and Design, highly recommended by art professor Lucy Barber.

· Fiction writer and Ape Culture editor Julie Wiskirchen shares this hilarious send-up on the NEA.

· Pulitzer Prize winner John Ashbery brings a life of art and writing together in this New York Times interview.

· More discussion on a new translation of Anna Karenina and the translating issued involved.

Closing this annogram with hopes and prayers for our country,


Ann Cefola

Sunday, August 31, 2008

your end-of-summer annogram

The trees are already turning red in New England—and like those leaves, Labor Day signals the end of summer. We spent the last week in Vermont, eating maple walnut ice cream and taking long drives through small towns. This annogram veers first into a travelogue, then snaps back to it literary origins—with a list of fabulous events that make the fall so energizing.

Funky fun Bellows Falls
While The New York Times recently profiled Bellows Falls, Vermont as a quirky community of emerging artists and entrepreneurs—we’ve already known about this classic New England industrial town for a long time. Replete with brick clock tower, train station and canal, Bellows Falls is a charming slice of Vermont, undiscovered by out-of-staters who usually head for Bennington, Manchester and sights along Route 7. Fav places in town:

First, some of the oldest petroglyphs, i.e., cave drawings, can be found carved into rocks on the Bellows Falls side of the Connecticut River. Some intrepid soul painted their lines yellow years ago, so they look a little like early smiley faces. People come from all over the world to view these authentic carvings. Okay, enough anthropology—let’s get to the food!

Picture traditional Chinese food in a huge Victorian house overlooking the Connecticut River, and you’ve imagined Joy Wah. Here, with red pagodas and tassels hanging over your head, the staff delivers fabulous food—such as cold noodles with sesame sauce, curried sub gum chow mein, tangerine shrimp and scallops in black bean sauce. It’s hard to say what’s better, the food, the service or the view.

Another great meal stop is “the wurst place in Bellows Falls,” a.k.a. Fat Franks. Jim, owner of Fat Franks, takes pride in offering three sizes of hot dogs, chili dogs, superb beans and a delectable veggie burger that’s actually made out of vegetables and not textured soy protein. Fat Franks has an upstairs dining area, or opt for take-out if you’d like to picnic somewhere.

If you’re a New Yorker hungry for authentic Italian cuisine, plan on Boccelli’s on the Canal. Chef/owner Sharon grew up in Boston’s North End and learned cooking secrets from her Italian grandmother and mother. While the atmosphere is casual, the food is extraordinarily high-end—fresh pasta, vegetables and huge slices of artisan bread roasted with olive oil.

For a quiet moment looking over Bellow Falls’ canal, head to the Hraefnwood (pronounced “Ravenwood”) Café (23 Canal St., 802-299-7429). Decorated with teal satin drapes and a fabulous art-deco mural hand-painted by café owner Kirsten Jette, Hraefnwood is atmospheric and serene. Kirsten and husband Eric studied with master tea- and coffee-makers to learn how to make extraordinary chai lattes and cappuccinos—and they also offer quality fare such as hot paninis or homemade baked goods.

Somehow ice cream tastes better in New England—and Dari Joy is no exception! The 32 flavors and huge portions at this former hamburger drive-in in Bellows Falls are a great way to top off any meal. People come over the bridge from New Hampshire to indulge here. If you enjoyed this tour through Bellows Falls, let me know and I can write next time about more Vermont treasures.

Sapphires at Hraefnwood
And what a pleasure it was to read at the Hraefnwood Café! Angela Batchelor, Sarah Bracey White, Terry Dugan, Linda Simone and I enjoyed meeting Kirsten and Eric, Hraefnwood proprietors and hosts of their popular music and poetry series. The evening felt less like a performance more like a party hosted by the Jettes. For a full description and photos of the evening, visit the new Sapphire blog.

Brenda Connor-Bey to be honored
Congratulations to Greenburgh Poet Laureate Brenda Connor-Bey, who will be honored at the Hudson Valley Writers Center at the center’s 20th anniversary gala on September 20. Brenda is a much loved writing and award-winning teacher, playwright and poet. Donald Stever, co-founder of the center, and writer Ben Cheever, equally respected, will be honored too. For tickets to the gala or to purchase space in the program, go to the HVWC site. (link)

The Literary Traveler
Ever wish you could have literary insight into the country you’re visiting? Now you can, with the Whereabouts Press Travelers Literary Companion series. The Mexico anthology, edited by literary translator CM Mayo, contains excerpts of several major Mexican works, including some by Rosario Castellanos, Carlos Fuentes and Fernando del Paso. Newer versions represent China, Japan, Ireland and Vietnam.

Free readings at Riverspace in Nyack
Poet Julie Agoos, winner of Yale Younger Poets Prize, has been called "quietly lyrical to the point of radiance" by The Washington Post. Julie will be reading with Molly Peacock (right) on September 14 at 4pm at Riverspace, a new community art center offering innovative programming in theatre, music, film, dance and poetry, at 119 Main Street in Nyack. On October 26, at 4pm, Riverspace will also welcome poets Teresa Carter, author of Elegy for the Floater, and Joan Cusack Handler, author of The Red Canoe.

'Round the Net
First, welcome to our new US Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan and thanks to friends for the following links:

- Sarah Bracey White for her wonder-filled fable, "The Wanderlust" in the Women and Voodoo issue of Women Writers

- Stacey Lynn Brown for her cautionary tale of a poetry book contract that went sour

- Linda Simone for this You Tube video on an ideal world for finding an agent and publisher

- The New York Times on the “perilous journey of a book from one language into another”

- The British Translators Association's list of 50 outstanding translations

- Jill Bolte Taylor on what she learned from a stroke about brain functioning

- Kim Wells and Nicole Vacca for this site that aids domestic violence victims with a click

- Mary Ladd for Bow Wow Trivia which helps to feed dogs

Elizabeth Alexander at Manhattanville
Poet Elizabeth Alexander will read at Manhattanville on October 7, 7pm. She is the author of four books of poems, The Venus Hottentot, Body of Life, Antebellum Dream Book, and American Sublime, a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. A scholar of African-American literature and culture, she also published a collection of essays, The Black Interior. She is a recipient of numerous awards including the 2007 Jackson Prize for Poetry awarded by Poets & Writers.

And cool master classes
Master classes allow non-matriculated adults to get the best from successful writers. Novelist Martha Cooley will teach “What Fiction Writers Can Learn From Poets,” on October 18, from 10am -4pm, at Manhattanville. The $125 fee includes lunch. On September 20, learn the art of “Sports Journalism: From Print to Internet to Electronic Media,” taught from Barry Wilner, who has authored 24 books. The cost is $50. For more information, or to register, call (914) 323-5300.

Poetry readings in New York City
An early Happy Birthday to New York’s own impresario of poetry, Jackie Sheeler! Jackie continues to increase—and host—poetry venues in the Big Apple. On Friday, September 12 at 6pm, hear Vicki Hudspith and Maggie Dubris at Cornelia Street Café; Saturday, September 13 at 6:30pm, Jackie will MC and perform at Larissa Shmailo’s CD release party at the Knitting Factory; Sunday, September 14 at 6pm, poet Cheryl Boyce Taylor will read at Jackie’s latest poetry venue, the Tribal Spears Gallery; and Thursday, September 18, Jackie will read with George Wallace at the Bowery Poetry Club.

Book reviews
In The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W.W. Norton, 2008), Marie Howe does what she does best: Uncover profound spiritual truths in everyday life—salted with a dose of humor. In “Reading Ovid,” she writes

The thing about those Greeks and Romans is that
at least mythologically,

they could get mad. If the man broke your heart, if he
fucked your sister speechless

then the real true hell broke loose:
“You know that stew you just ate for dinner, honey?—

It was your son.”
that’s Ovid for you.

Ms. Howe uses her acute ear for found dialogue and her own spiritual questioning to tackle subjects such as marriage and child-raising—with poems frequently anchored in the Gospel. This unusual mixture of work somehow feels seamless in her hands, and delightful in ours.

“I’ll be right back,” Tao Lin says heart-breakingly at the end of many poems in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Melville House, 2008). Each one, often crafted as an e-mail message, examines the emotional underbelly of the Internet—isolation from others, and in the speaker’s case, disassociation from himself. The speaker is a sometime shoplifter, missing an imagined or real girlfriend across broadband space. When the poet changes characters into hamsters, the metamorphosis reinforces what the Internet can turn us into—nervous, self-interested, scavenging. I could not put this book down, and found it the first poetry to accurately portray the psychic price of our much acclaimed Internet era. The narrator says that if you look into his mind, you find “a powerful sadness.” That is the feeling that lingered after I read this original and disturbing work.

Brenda Is in The Room and Other Poems (Colorado State, 2007) by Craig Morton Teicher won the Colorado Prize for Poetry. I almost didn’t read this book given its title and floor plan of rooms as a metaphor for marriage—you could hear me groaning, “Oh gawd!” But the title poem is engaging, so I persevered. I enjoyed the cosmic rant of “I Am A Poet,” fairy tale “One to Another: A Creation Myth” and sensuous tribute to his fiancée, “I Am a Woman’s Lover”:

Whatever animal I was before, now
I am twice that animal. She is more
a man than I will ever be. The space
between us is an uncrossable ocean.
And each time we find a way across,
we only arrive in another country
where another language is spoken.
The wild horses in our field fix me
in their narrow gaze, preparing to charge,
bending low so my beloved can mount.

As we head toward fall, I recall the words of Sylvia Plath, who pondered a mid-life career she was never to have—but can inspire the rest of us to fulfill:

I feel a helplessness when I think of my writing being nothing, coming to nothing: for I have no other job—not teaching, nor publishing. And a guilt grows in me to have all my time my own.... I walked in the vegetable garden, beans hanging on the bushes, squash, yellow and orange, fattening in the dapple of leaves, corn, grapes purpling on the vine, parsley, rhubarb. And wondered where the solid, confident purposeful days of my youth vanished. How shall I come into the right, rich full-fruited world of middle-age. Unless I work. And get rid of the accusing, never-satisfied gods who surround me like a crown of thorns. Forget myself, myself. Become a vehicle of the world, a tongue, a voice.

Wishing you a rich full-fruited harvest,

Sunday, July 06, 2008

your july 4th annogram

Ann in Alhambra Poetry Calendar 2008
Thanks to Shafiq Naz, editor of Alhambra Publishing’s Poetry Calendar, for selecting “Sugaring” for the 2008 English edition, and to Hélène Sanguinetti, who suggested my work. I am thrilled to be in a volume distinguished “by some of the best American, British, Canadian, Australian, and Irish poets from the 14th to the 21st century.”

Sapphires at Hraefnwood Café
The Sapphires, an award-winning group of women writers, feature novelist Angela
Batchelor, poet Terry Dugan, poet Linda Simone, creative non-fiction writer Sarah Bracey White—and me. We’ve performed everywhere from Manhattanville College to the United Nations, and on Saturday, July 26, we’ll be at the Hraefnwood Café in Bellows Falls, Vermont, at 7 p.m. Hope to see Vermont friends there!

Frost vandals receive ‘poetic justice’
Speaking of Vermont, you may recall in my last annogram learning that teens trashed the Robert Frost farm on the Middlebury College campus. Their punishment is to sit through two classes on the poet taught by Frost biographer and Middlebury professor, Jay Parini. I am sure the ever-crusty Frost would appreciate that discipline—although he would probably ask them to memorize several poems too.

Toadlily poet wins Pushcart Prize
Congratulations to Heidi Hart, whose poem, “Door Psalm,” from Edge by Edge (Toadlily Press, 2007) will appear in the 2009 Pushcart Prize XXXIII: Best of the Small Presses. To read and/or hear the poem, click on this link.

Camber Press Chapbook Contest
The Fourth Annual Camber Press Poetry Chapbook Award contest is underway through August 15, 2008. The judge is Steve Orlen, with the first prize $1000 and publication of the winning entry. For more submission details, click on this link.

Salute to C.D. Wright
C.D. Wright is one of a handful of women poets who are transforming the uses of language—much like Anne Carson and Hélène Sanguinetti, the French poet I am honored to translate. I’ll review two of her books here, and one by Frank Stanford, an influential figure in her life and co-founder with Ms. Wright of Lost Roads Publishers.

You could call Ms. Wright’s latest book, Rising, Falling, Hovering (Copper Canyon Press, 2008) her “Howl.” In this book-length protest, the poet incants the number of Iraq-war dead, and vents that she cannot bear :to say their [expletive] monosyllabic surnames” of “the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania” for “dread of it calling up their bland [expletive] faces […].”

If this book were merely a rant, we would soon tire of it. Ms. Wright’s genius is in combining further political themes such as immigration and Katrina, and anchoring such global concerns in motherly anxiety over what will happen to her teen son. She moves effortlessly from the political to the personal with honesty and humor:

He mentions getting jumped in Zihuatenejo and cornered the year before in Oaxaca

the Christmas before in Chicago and mugged once in Brooklyn

and she is What What What Can’t you just stay inside and read
(turning pages)

until you’re thirty or something

(“Rising, Falling, Hovering, cont.”)

Ms. Wright avoids being labeled a confessional poet by using the third voice, notes poet Meredith Trede. This effective device, along with Spanish phrases sprinkled throughout, creates an accessible poem that embraces the world. Suzanne Hoover, an extraordinary poetry professor at Sarah Lawrence, once defined poetry as looking down through several disparate images and seeing something entirely different as a result. This book is a wonderful example of such imaginative layering.

The Lost Road Project, A Walk-In Book of Arkansas, by C.D. Wright with photographs by Deborah Luster, is an Arkansas treasure. My grandmother lived there, so I had occasion to drive with her to the cloud-wreathed, heaven-like Ozarks, eat things like cobblestone bread and Creole pralines, and meet quirky neighbors like Ruby and Reek who entered her home as casually as if they lived there.

Ms. Wright had to have been inspired by my all-time favorite, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the chronicle of three 1930s sharecropper families by Pulitzer Prize- winning poet James Agee and photographer Walker Evans.

Similarly, Ms. Wright has juxtaposed Ms. Luster’s dramatic black-and-white photos against, among other things, a mean cornbread recipe, a blues riff by Sonny Boy Williamson, respective prose and poetry by Arkansas natives Shirley Abbott and Maya Angelou, reflections by historian C. Van Woodward, and a Frank Stanford poem. Ms. Wright’s introduction is a lyrical and comprehensive state history and Ms. Luster’s photographs—like Walker Evans’s work—seem like haunting glimpses into a world few of us would otherwise know.

Moving on to Frank Stanford’s selected The Light the Dead See (University of Arkansas Press, 1991), I wonder whether he is inspired, insane or both. Stanford paints images from the Mississippi levees of his youth the way Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) creates exaggerated pictures of the American west. Reoccurring characters have names like “Born in the Camp with Six Toes” and “Baby Gauge.” In the epic “The Snake Doctors,” locals beat the speaker’s pet pig while the man is in church:

I ran after the hog
He was heading for the river
I jumped on his back
I rode the hog
I hugged his neck
I stabbed him seven times
I wanted the knife to go into me
He kept running
I ran the knife across his throat
And the blood came out like a bird.

Lines like these gallop forward, choppy and alarming, with gospel-like overtones. Knowing that Stanford ended his life at 30, I read his work like a detective—wondering about his intense drive. There is a regional purity in this book, however, rendered in an abstract-expressionist style, that is as original and rewarding as it is disturbing.

’Round the Net
Thanks to:

· Angela Batchelor for insights into her active life as a professor, writer and diarist.

· Novelist Petra Lewis for this NYT article on creativity.

· Detroit News Personal Finance Columnist Brian J. O’Connor for three hilarious essays that have won another national humor prize.

· Translator B. J. Epstein for her fascinating blog, Brave New Words, all the way from Wales.

Discovering the night sky
It is said that Robert Frost invited Emily Dickinson to the Amherst College Observatory to view the night sky. “Amherst College in the poet's day was one of the leading institutions for the study of astronomy,” notes the college’s web site. “Built in 1905 as a technologically advanced astronomy center, the observatory and [original refracting] telescope have been recently restored.”

Can you imagine the conversation between Frost and Dickinson? Anyone who has been asked to look at the stars knows it is a wondrous invitation—especially if given by someone who knows his night sky.

That’s what Bob Davidson, co-founder of Westchester Amateur Astronomers, and a natural “non-scientist scientist” did for many of us—here and at Stellafane, the annual summer gathering of amateur telescope-makers, in Vermont. Bob showed the stars to everyone from NASA scientists to school kids at star parties and other public events throughout the tri-state area. We lost him last month, but not his passion for M objects and galaxies that we will continue to carry and share with others.

Wishing you an inspiring summer night's view of Cygnus, the swan....


Sunday, April 27, 2008

your april annogram

Happy National Poetry Month! And what a wonderful one it has been: Mary Ladd’s excellent review of my translation, Hence this cradle, appeared in Book/Mark, and Liz Fortini’s review in Language and Culture ( A selection from Hence appeared with the original on I am grateful to Hélène Sanguinetti, for submitting our work; and to Susan Anthony for mentioning my poetry book, Sugaring,in the Fall/Winter New England Writers newsletter.

Master poetry translation workshop
Translator and art historian Beth Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D., invited me to give a master poetry translation workshop in her French translation class at Manhattanville College. It was great to see undergrads discover the challenges and rewards of translating poetry. We discussed Eliot Weinberger’s 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, and then translated Rimbaud’s "Sensation."

Pen World Voices Festival of International Literature

Translation runs riot this week in New York City as 82 events feature writers such as Umberto Eco, Ian McEwan, Mario Vargas Llosa, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx and more for six days of exciting literary exchange. Tickets from $10-$30/$8-$25 for PEN members.

Poetry reading at Manhattanville

Manhattanville and Hudson Valley Writers Center are sponsoring a free poetry reading Wednesday, May 21, 2008, at 7 p.m. at the college’s Reid Castle. Featured poets will be John Hoppenthaler (Anticipate the Coming Reservoir and Lives of Water), Suzanne Cleary (Trick Pear and Keeping Time) and David Tucker (Late for Work).

Poor Robert Frost

Frost may regret the title of his book (at right): Kids on a bender damaged his home on the Middlebury College campus earlier this year. Good timing that the college has a web exhibit, "Robert Frost at Bread Loaf," to quell the poet’s surely piqued spirit! Thanks to Linda Simone for pointing out this rare online collection.

Rediscovering Alan Shulman on NPR

Composer, cellist and arranger Alan Shulman (1915-2002) was a member of the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini, cellist of the Stuyvesant String Quartet, arranged for Metropolitan Opera diva Risë Stevens, and mentored master arranger Nelson Riddle. Jazz pianist Judy Carmichael interviewed his son, Jay Shulman, about his father’s music for her National Public Radio Jazz Inspired radio program this month. Hear the interview on Judy's website:

Silent movies accompanied by pianist Donald Sosin
If you love silents, you’ll be glad to know they are still in the area—accompanied by pianist Donald Sosin. At the Brooklyn Academy of Music Cinematek, Tuesday, April 29, at 7 p.m., you can see "Keisatsukan" ("Policeman"). At the Brooklyn Bridge Park, at the 125th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge, you can see "Panorama" on Friday and Saturday, May 23-24, at 8:30 p.m., followed by the feature "Enchanted" Friday and "It Happened in Brooklyn" Saturday.

More silent treasures
On May 10, at 7 p.m. at the Seifert Theater at the Salisbury School, Salisbury, Connecticut, Donald Sosin will perform to "Manhatta", the first American avant-garde 1920 film by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand; "I Was Born But…", the 1932 comedy by director Yasujiro Ozu; and three shorts (1905-1908) by Georges Méliès from the new five-DVD set (see: Free; reserve by emailing or calling 860-435-4687.

Is print dead?
Translator and editor CM Mayo ( highly recommends Jeff Gomez's Print is Dead. "It's a provocative title," she writes, "and, ironically, first published in print—but very knowledgeable and well written." See

Free translations lead to book sales
Thanks to translator Ruth A. Gentes Krawczyk ( for this fascinating piece of marketing insight:
Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho has grown his readership with free translations. Fortune says, "Intrigued by his growing sales in Russia, Coelho used the Bittorrent site—a favorite for illicit distribution of media—to seek out and download online translations of his books as well as audio versions.

By 2006 he was hosting an entire sub-site he called The Pirate Coelho, with links to books in many languages."His newsletter is said to have 200,000 subscribers and Coelho indicates he gets about 1,000 e-mails from fans every day. "I don't understand why publishers don't understand that this new medium is not killing books," Coelho says. "I'm doing it mostly because the joy of a writer is to be read. But at the end of the day, you will sell more books."

Your annograms, six times a year
You can expect your annograms delivered to your e-mail box every other month. The monthly edition seems to be morphing to this time table. If you’re lonely for an annogram, you can always read the illustrated version on my blog,

May you find new ways to celebrate poetry—not only in April, but year-round!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

After a three-month hiatus, your annogram is back! Hope you taste spring in the air like I do. We have a lot of catching up to do:

Ann at Hudson Valley Writers Center
Many thanks to the Hudson Valley Writers Center for inviting me to read December 14. Despite a cold and icy night, the renovated train station in Philipsburg Manor that HVWC calls home had a full house. I was honored to share billing with Greg Delanty, an award-winning poet originally from Ireland who calls Vermont home. I read from my chapbook, Sugaring, and translation, Hence this cradle, and participated in an audience Q&A.
The Musculature of Small Birds
My poem, “Aspiration,” appears in The Musculature of Small Birds (shadowbox press, 2007). The chapbook's clever cover is deep blue textured paper, with a manila pocket that holds a library borrower’s card with handwritten title and editor’s name. Buy a copy and 30 percent of your $7 will go to the International Rescue Committee, which aids refugees and displaced people in 25 countries.
Clapton and Winwood at the Garden

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood joined forces last week for three sold-out shows. The duo covered memorable songs from Blind Faith, Traffic and Derek and the Dominos, including “Little Wing,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” At first tentative, these giants later faced one another and traded blues leads as if in their own studio. Winwood, whose soulful vocals sound like he has a bubble in his throat, performed a powerful “Georgia on My Mind” on organ. Clapton’s solo was an equally impressive version of Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ On My Mind.”

Associated Writing Programs Conference
More than 7,000 writers attended the AWP Conference in New York City in February. I met editors who have published my work, such as Dwayne Hayes of Absinthe, Johannes Göransson of Action Yes, and Stefania Heim and Jennifer Kronovet of Circumference. Other highlights included David Lehman reading his translations of Henri Michaux and CD Wright reciting from Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Dreaming the End of War. Poet Laureate Charles Simic (pictured left), discussing writers’ notebooks, broke up the audience as he intoned “trusting memory is a bad idea.” In another workshop, Beth Ann Fennelly viewed the prose poem as a way “to trap the reader.” Nick Flynn, exploring historical topics, saw such poem-making as an opportunity “to transform obsessive energy into meditative energy.” These nuggets and more abounded during an inspiring—and exhausting—three days.
In January, I caught the Seurat exhibit before it closed. Georges Seurat (1859-1891) would wander around the Zone, a working-class neighborhood between Paris and its suburbs, in pre-dawn and twilight hours. In this unreal light, Seurat’s sketches anticipate his later pointillism with slanted lines raining silhouette figures; other times, textured paper creates the subtle patterns. Women are often a few vanishing lines in the background—and faces, never visible, unless flat and doll-like in his circus posters. The drawings evidence emotion, whereas his vibrant color canvases seem to lack feeling. In these daily sketches, you discover a young man who applied his art scientifically as much as passionately.

Sculpture by Martin Puryear
Kudos to MoMA for pairing Puryear (1941- ) with Seurat. After Seurat’s intimate pictures which drew onlookers into tight detail, Puryear’s rolling, round and interwoven wood shapes were a welcome relief. Puryear, craftsman as much as artist, creates unusual tube and globe-like sculptures whose surfaces are oiled like furniture. MoMA wisely left room for people to walk around each one, such as “Deadeye” (2002), which invited exploration by children and adults. Puryear’s work touches on significant themes, such as the riveting “C.F.A.O.” (2007), which speaks to the colonization of Africa and uses a wheelbarrow found in Alexander Calder’s (1898-1976) studio. I really loved this exhibit for Puryear’s ability to evoke the playful, spiritual and political at once.
If you are looking for a noteworthy gift for a writer, consider a hardwood pen from Vermont. I have bought several for friends and kept a lilac wood pen for myself—which, unbelievably, smells like the tree’s blossoms. Contact Jim Cunningham at

Another gift idea is Billets Doux from Dancing Girl Press. Billets Doux is French for “love letters.” This limited edition collection in an attractive box features 15 love letters, each written and designed by a poet, for $22.

And, if you're always hungry like me, and happen to live in Westchester: Red Barn Pizza, 158 Central Avenue in Hartsdale (914-328-3927), features whole wheat and multigrain pizza crusts. For the holistically inclined, finding this place is like locating the Holy Grail. I recommend both whole-grain crusts.

'Round the Net
People send me fabulous links I’d like to share. Thanks to:

Remembering Alice
My mother-in-law, and biggest poetry fan, Alice Cefola, 93, recently passed away. When I won an award from Pulitzer-prize winner John Ashbery, she would get confused and tell people I won the Pulitzer. I’ll never forget Alice’s attentive listening—like she was holding her breath—when Brenda Connor Bey and Linda Simone read their poetry at her nursing home. The Town of Greenburgh’s Poetry Caravan, organized by Sarah Bracey White, made such readings possible—and deeply nourished my extraordinarily appreciative mother-in-law.

Here's to poetry, which endures.