Writes my smart poet/translator friend E.C. Belli:

Because we are so multi-rooted, because we are from everywhere, we are no longer really from a place. Instead, we are from beings. Saint-Exupéry noted, “We come from our childhoods as we come from a country.” But what is childhood if not the moment in which we experience some of the strongest social bonds of our lifetime? For all of our nomadic existence, our roots today are as people based as they are placed based. We belong to beings as we belong to a country.

From here.

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed

Lucille Clifton, 1936-2010

I heard this quote last night during a performance by Carlos Parada Ayala at this amazing event. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Over a year ago, I wrote:

There are hundreds of small presses cropping up all over the country, publishing in small volumes, often using handmade or letterpress technologies…One notable example is Ugly Duckling Presse (UDP), a Brooklyn-based small press that makes chapbooks, broadsides and artist books in their one-room studio. They’ve published over 200 titles in the last ten years and many of the ones they put out have some handmade element, whether it be a letterpress cover or a hand-stitched or rubber band binding. UDP books are well-made objects that encourage you to read more slowly, to really look at each page.

Last month, The New York Times shot a video about small and independent literary presses in Brooklyn, NY, and they featured Ugly Duckling Presse:

Go support UDP now, and you can say “I knew them when they were still underground…”

“A stone thrown into a silent lake
is—the sound of your name.
The light click of hooves at night
—your name.
Your name at my temple
—shrill click of a cocked gun.”

— Marina Tsvetaeva, from “Poems for Blok, 1,” translated by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine (via Russian Literature via proustitute)
For translators out there, consider entering the 2012 Marina Tsvetaeva Compass Translation Competition (winner gets $300 and publication).

Here’s a snippet from a recent “Brevity” blog post by Anna Vodicka that really resonated with me:

The poetry class did not make me a poet. I wrote a lot of bad poems. But it did turn my attention to the short form—the art of economy and responsibility. With Kinnell’s poem and Wrigley’s words in mind, I thought, “Yes. Prose, it is.”

I plucked a few lines from their stanzas, let them settle responsibly into the new space of a paragraph, and cautiously let prose in. That’s when I heard the sound. It went, “click.”

I am currently working on an experimental essay all about how poetry and literary translation has affected my nonfiction prose writing and pushed me in a, well, experimental direction.

Can’t wait to finish it and (hopefully) find a published home for it. Then I’ll share it here!

Photo: Pedro Veneroso (Flickr)

My policy is “unless you know the full story, don’t judge”, and you never know the full story. — John Waters, quoted here.

This reminds me of a lovely quote that Courtney Martin uses as her email signature:

Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story. — Mary Lou Kownacki

Cover of Russian for Lovers, poems by Marina BlitshteynI was so happy to attend last night’s book launch party for Marina Blitshteyn’s first chapbook of poetry, “Russian for Lovers,” published by Argos Books. The crowd at KGB Bar seemed to love the work as much as I did.

I know Marina and the three women founders of Argos well through our graduate writing program, but I know that I was blown away by her words, not just excited for the success of a friend.

The poems are an abecedarian, meaning a poem for each letter of the alphabet, in this case, the Russian alphabet of Cyrillic letters. Each poem explores not only the sound of the letter but the implications of its usage, its sense, and the words that use that letter. She weaves a tangle of questions about culture, the ability to understand a beloved whose language and mother country is not shared, the words (inoffensive and offensive ones) that Blitshteyn heard growing up a Jew in her native Moldova.

I can’t express how impressed I was with the works and how thrilled to hear Marina read them out loud. When she was introduced by Argos co-founder Elizabeth Clark Wessel, Wessel reminded us that Marina learned English from cartoons and hip-hop. It’s clear to me that this form of spoken word has clearly influenced “Russian for Lovers” with its bombastic flair. She reads like the best, never a dull moment. It’s all about the sounds of the words.

Since not all of you were able to be there, I recorded Marina’s reading so you can hear these gorgeous pieces come to life. Listen to the audio of the night by clicking here.

And then you can be moved to buy your own copy of “Russian for Lovers” here.