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