Margo Berdeshevsky on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Margo Berdeshevsky by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Margo Berdeshevsky

Margo Berdeshevsky, born in New York city, often writes and lives in Paris. Before The Drought, her newest collection of poems, is from Glass Lyre Press, September 2017. (In an early version, it was finalist for the National Poetry Series.) Berdeshevsky is author as well of Between Soul & Stone, and But a Passage in Wilderness, (Sheep Meadow Press.) Her book of illustrated stories, Beautiful Soon Enough, received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for Fiction Collective Two (University of Alabama Press.) Other honors include the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America, a portfolio of her poems in the Aeolian Harp Anthology #1 (Glass Lyre Press,) the & Now Anthology of the Best of Innovative Writing, and numerous Pushcart Prize nominations. Her works appear in the American journals: Poetry International, New Letters, Kenyon Review, Plume, The Collagist, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Southern Humanities Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, The American Journal of Poetry, Jacar Press—One, among many others. In Europe her works have been seen in The Poetry Review (UK) The Wolf, Europe, Siècle 21, & Confluences Poétiques. A multi genre novel, Vagrant, and a hybrid of poems, Square Black Key, wait at the gate. She may be found reading from her books in London, Paris, New York City, Los Angeles, or somewhere new in the world. Her Letters from Paris may be found in Poetry International, here. For more info kindly see margoberdeshevsky.com

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It Is Still Beautiful to Hear the Heart Beat

It’s 3 AM. The crows on one leg or none are already starving for infant nests. A few leaves hang on still. A prayer of godwits enters the dream from the upper left quadrant. No, I tell the dream-maker,

no, make it a lamentation of swans. The times demand it. Instead, I’m given an affliction of starlings tearing the leaves that remain as they fly, and the dream is ruined. What’s real is in bed with me,

mounts me, slides in like a husband entering with the unquestioned privilege of his sexual entitlement. Drowsy, I open my thighs to him, to it, to the day. To my habit of saying “Accept it, I’ll

die tonight,” each night when I pull the quilts for sleep, so that I can practice belief. The next day is new. Always. Fair or fetid, bring with me only what I dare to remember. Opening new eyes, there is

the baby in her crib, her shape nothing I wanted. Waking is waking. What’s real is the child with her badly sculpted brain, her damaged possibility of dream. What’s real is our day in a diseased year and

the baby has come out wrong. Blame it on the chemicals. Blame it on the sting of the genus Aedes aegypti, white stripes on her legs, a marking in the form of a lyre on her upper thorax. Say that she

comes at dawn. What’s real is I was another one of the harmed, the infant, more so, but less harmed than the worse harmed than we.

Awake, it is still beautiful to hear the heart beat, I repeat. A prayer of godwits hovers at my door.
I am so deeply awake.

* from After A Death—Tomas Transtomer

Yun Wang on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Yun Wang by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Yun Wang

Yun Wang is the author of two poetry books (The Book of Totality, Salmon Poetry Press, 2015, and The Book of Jade, Winner of the 15th Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, Story Line Press, 2002), two poetry chapbooks (Horse by the Mountain Stream, Word Palace Press, 2016; The Carp, Bull Thistle Press, 1994), and a book of poetry translations (Dreaming of Fallen Blossoms: Tune Poems of Su Dong-Po, White Pine Press, forthcoming 2019). Her poems have been published in numerous literary journals, including The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Cimarron Review, Salamander Magazine, Green Mountains Review, and International Quarterly. Her translations of classical Chinese poetry have been published in The Kenyon Review Online, Salamander Magazine, Poetry Canada Review, Willow Springs, Connotation Press, and elsewhere.

Wang grew up in rural southwest China and began writing poetry when she was 12. Her father was a political dissident who was brutally persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. He convinced her to become a scientist to escape political persecution. Wang majored in physics at Tsinghua University when she was 16. She came to the U.S. for graduate school in physics in 1985, and got a Ph.D. in physics from Carnegie Mellon University in 1991. She was a professor of physics and astronomy at University of Oklahoma from 2000 to 2017. She is currently a Senior Research Scientist at California Institute of Technology. She is the author of the cosmology graduate textbook, Dark Energy (Wiley-VCH, 2010). Her research focuses on exploring the nature of dark energy, the mysterious cause for the accelerated expansion of our universe. She was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2012.

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The Carp

My father was the school principal. The day I was born, he caught a twenty pound carp. He gave it to the school kitchen. All the teachers and boarding students tasted it.

Waves of mountains surrounded us. I grew up yearning for the ocean. Smoke arose from green mountains to form clouds each morning. My father named me Cloud.

When a son was born to Confucius, the king of Lu sent over a carp as present. Confucius named his son Carp.

The wise say a carp leaping over the dragon gate is a very lucky sign. My father says he named me Cloud because I was born in the year of the dragon: there are always clouds following a dragon. Confucius’ son died an early death. My father has only three daughters.

When I was three, I wandered all over the campus. A stray cat in a haunted town. My mother says I passed the room where my father was imprisoned. He whispered to me, hid a message in my little pocket. It was his will that I should grow up a strong woman, and find justice for him.

They caught me. My father was beaten to near death. Some of them were students, whose parents were peasants. Some of them were teachers, who used to be his best friends. They had tasted the carp.

It has been recorded that Confucius could not tell the difference between millet and wheat, and was thus mocked by a peasant. This peasant became a big hero, representing the wisdom of the people, thousands of years after Confucius’ death.

My father still goes fishing, the only thing that seems to calm him. The mountains are sleeping waves. My father catches very small fish. My mother eats them. My friends laugh at me, when I tell them that once upon a time, my father caught a carp weighing twenty pounds.

—from The Book of Jade (Storyline Press, 2002) by Yun Wang

Douglas Manuel on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Douglas Manuel by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—

Douglas Manuel was born in Anderson, Indiana. He received a BA in creative writing from Arizona State University and a MFA from Butler University where he was the managing editor of Booth: A Journal. He is currently a Middleton and Dornsife Fellow at the University of Southern California where he is pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing. He has served as the poetry editor of Gold Line Press as well as was one of the managing editors of Ricochet Editions. His work is featured on Poetry Foundation’s website and has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Los Angeles Review, Superstition Review, Rhino, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, New Orleans Review, Crab Creek Review, and elsewhere. His first full length collection of poems, Testify, was released by Red Hen Press in the spring of 2017.

“In his breathtaking debut, Testify, Douglas Manuel charts the raw emotional complexities and the impossible daily reckonings that confront a young black man coming of age today in America. Faced at every turn with condescending, fixed assumptions about his ‘proper’ role in his community and culture, the speaker faces each indictment with a stunning and searing intelligence. Each powerful testimony in this collection stands as evidence of an eloquent and dramatic new voice in American poetry.”
—David St. John

“In Douglas Manuel’s Testify the act of witnessing is by turns burdensome and bittersweet, narrative and lyrical, ecstatic and irreverent. Here the holy words are the ones that offer no easy epiphanies yet grant us dazzling, off-kilter compassion and a strange, surprising grace. These potent poems testify to those ambivalent moments that might rend or right us, as when an interracial couple drive past a truck with a Confederate flag painted on its back windshield and from which a little boy turns to smile and wave: his ‘blond hair // split down the middle like a Bible / left open to the Book of Psalms.'”
—Anna Journey, author of The Atheist Wore Goat Silk

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Testify

I swear on the melody of trumpet vines,
ants feasting through animal crackers, Burt’s Bees,
Tyler Perry movies, my daddy’s .38 slug, footie-socks
inside high-top Jordans, disidentification, drag
queens, blond dreadlocks, headstones
salt-and-peppering the grass, vanilla wafers
in banana pudding, Zeus-swan chasing,
blunt-guts, sharp thumbnails, keloid scars,
cash-only bars, R&B songs, on what the pot
called the kettle. I put that on my mama’s good
hair, on playing solitaire with a phantom
limb, the white woman I go home to,
my auntie’s face when she says: You know
he always loved them pink toes. I put that on
everything, on the signifiers I gobble up,
candlesticks blown out by whistling lips.
I put that on dervishing records scratched
on down-beats, empty beehives,
fresh-fade head-slaps, hand claps, bamboo shoots,
liminality, mestizos, the purple-black crook
of my arm, split sternums, on You can’t save
him now. I put that on skinny jeans, get rich
quick schemes—Gotta get that C.R.E.A.M. Know what
I mean?—freckled black faces, leafless trees
throwing up gang signs, phlegm hocked
onto streets. I swear I catch more stones
than catfish. I lose more collard greens than sleep. I think
nothing is here but us darkies, high yellows, red bones,
cocoa butters. Someone, no, everyone has jungle fever.
Don’t touch my forehead. Blond
as moonshine, mute trombone choking.
I put that on Instagram. Post me to the endless chain
of signifiers. Strawberry gashes on kneecaps, Let me
get some dap, Newports, Kool’s, and folding
chairs instead of barstools, that white drool
caked on your face. Mommy please wipe away
the veil. I thought I was passing into the eye
of the streetlamp. I swear. I promise on frondless
palm trees, long pinkie nails, sixteen years, serve eight,
and Miss Addie’s red beans and rice, Ol’ Dirty Bastard
and the brother on the Cream of Wheat box. It don’t mean
a thing if it don’t buckle your knees. Open your hands.
I’ll give you a song, give you the Holy Ghost
from a preacher’s greasy palm—When he hit me, I didn’t
fall, felt eyes jabbing me, tagging me. Oh no he didn’t!—
give you the om from the small of her back.
I put that on double consciousness, multiple jeopardy,
and performativity. Please make sure my fetters
and manacles are tight. Yea baby, I like bottomless
bullet chambers. I swear on the creation of Uncle Tom—
some white woman’s gospel. She got blue eyes? I love
me some—on Josiah Henson, the real Uncle Tom, on us still
believing in Uncle Tom. Lord, have mercy!
Put that on the black man standing on my shoulders holding
his balls. Put that on the black man I am—I am not—on
the black man I wish I was.

__________
Douglas Manuel, “Testify” from Testify. Copyright © 2017 by Douglas Manuel. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Hugh Welchman on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Hugh Welchman by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Hugh Welchman

Loving Vincent is the world’s first fully oil painted feature film. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, produced by Poland’s BreakThru Films & UK’s Trademark Films. The film brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story. Every one of the 65,000 frames of the film is an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters who traveled from all across the world to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to be a part of the production. As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings, is his passionate and ill-fated life, and mysterious death. No other artist has attracted more legends than Vincent van Gogh. Variously labelled a martyr, a lustful satyr, a madman, a genius and a layabout, the real Vincent is at once revealed in his letters, and obscured by myth and time. Vincent himself said in his last letter: ‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings’. We take him at his word and let the paintings tell the real story of Vincent van Gogh.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors, and then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, and the performance of the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint. Loving Vincent stars famous faces to match the famous paintings they portray including Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Aidan Turner and Helen McCrory,

“A one-of-a-kind work of art.”
—Variety

“Hypnotic and beguiling.”
—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“Remarkable. You will marvel at the art in this labor-intensive labor-of-love.”
—Bob Mondello, NPR All Things Considered

“A new film that tears up the rule book of animation…I’ve not experienced anything like it before.”
—Florence Waters, The Telegraph

“A jaw-droppingly beautiful film.”
—Tomris Laffly, Film Journal International

“Never has there been a film that spoke to the heart of an artist like “Loving Vincent”. Animation and fine art painting come together in this loving tribute to the work and life of a master artist.”
—Tony Bancroft, SIFF Animation Jury

Boris Dralyuk on Poets Cafe

The following interview of Boris Dralyuk by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).


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Biographical Information—Boris Dralyuk

Boris Dralyuk is a literary translator and the Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from UCLA. His work has appeared in the Times Literary SupplementThe New YorkerLondon Review of BooksThe Guardian, and other publications. His translations from Russian include Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry (Pushkin Press, 2015) and Odessa Stories (Pushkin Press, 2016). He is the editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution (Pushkin Press, 2016), and co-editor, with Robert Chandler and Irina Mashinski, of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2015). His website is bdralyuk.wordpress.com

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Night.—Northeaster
by Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941)

Night.—Northeaster.—Roar of soldiers.—Roar of waves.
Wine cellars raided.—Down every street,
every gutter—a flood, a precious flood,
and in it, dancing, a moon the colour of blood.

Tall poplars stand dazed.
Birds sing all night—crazed.
A tsar’s statue—razed,
black night in its place.

Barracks and harbour drink, drink.
The world and its wine—ours!
The town stamps about like a bull,
swills from the turbid puddles.

The moon in a cloud of wine.—Who’s that? Stop!
Be my comrade, sweetheart: drink up!
Merry stories go round:
Deep in wine—a couple has drowned.

Feodosia, the last days of October 1917

Translated by Boris Dralyuk. From 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution, edited by Boris Dralyuk (Pushkin Press, 2016).