Special Monthly Feature: Elegy. Guest-Edited by Corey Zeller




I am intensely proud of this issue.

It was a great honor to receive poems from some of my favorite poets writing today on a subject I have spent great time on over the past year while writing my book Man vs. Sky (YesYes Books) which is a book-length elegy written in the voice of my best friend following his suicide.

I cannot recall how the idea to write the book came to me but I do recall simply writing out of a great grief. Approaching the subject, I didn’t want to write a bunch of poems about being sad. I didn’t want to write a book that wallowed in self-pity and I certainly didn’t want to write poems that were like millions upon millions of poems about losing someone that have come before me.

I focused on the language. I looked for an interesting way to present the subject of his death. I tried to veer away from cliché. I tried to write a book that made my friend feel more present. I tried to write a book that helped me forget my friend was dead.

In the end, I am not sure that I succeeded. I certainly didn’t on all fronts.

Reading for this issue, I had similar expectations in mind. I wanted to read poems that were innovative. I wanted poems that went beyond raw grief and explored other areas, that surprised, that said more than what we often say to each other in our lives outside of paper. In other words, I was looking for good poems.

What I received from these great poets far exceeded my expectations. The light they bring here is staggering, profound, necessary, and real.

I hope, if anything, that you find something you need within.

-Corey Zeller




Abraham Smith
Adam Clay
Amber Nelson
Amy Lawless
Andrea Rexilius
Bianca Stone
Christopher Kennedy
Dorianne Laux
Eleanor Paynter
Gale Marie Thompson
Holly Amos
Jeffrey Allen
Jennifer Militello
Joe Hall
Julie Carr
Justin Boening
Lynn Melnick
Nate Slawson
Noah Falck
Oliver De La Paz
Sarah Blake
Shane McCrae

From Time Is a Toy: A Special Feature on the Work of Michael Benedikt

“To live alone is to be immensely in charge of the silence”

Michael Benedikt, 1998 photo: Laura Boss


Michael Benedikt (1935-2007) published five books of poetry between 1968 – 1980, as well as editing several anthologies, most notably, The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (1976) and The Poetry of Surrealism (1974). He also served as poetry editor of The Paris Review for several years at the end of the 70s through the beginning of the 80s, and his poems appeared in dozens of anthologies.

And then, somehow, he disappeared in the way all artists fear they might. He continued writing, and publishing a poem here and there, but no more books appeared, no new anthologies, and he never edited another journal. Over time his books all went out of print.

The reasons for his disappearance are complicated, and I’m going to be writing more next week about it. After he died, some of his extended family were preparing to throw his files into a dumpster when Laura Boss intervened. If not for that, all of his unpublished work (fully half the book) would be gone.

Because I was working from original drafts in boxes, I came across several versions of many poems, while some poems only existed in single copies, often with penciled notes along the margins, and some poems were only hinted at in notes. Because of this, I’ve had to make several decisions about what constituted “definitive” versions. More about that next week as well.

Now his work is back. Along with the poet and editor (and Michael Benedikt’s companion of twenty years) Laura Boss, I’m editing Time Is a Toy: The Selected Poems of Michael Benedikt (U of Akron Press, 2013). This collection spans Benedikt’s whole career, from his early collections through his unpublished later work.

Michael Benedikt’s poetry ranges through three (in my mind) distinct modes, often overlapping in time, but—if you blur your eyes a little—lightly chronological. The book is divided into these three sections:

Phase one, I’m calling “The Poetry of Surrealism” phase, that ran, generally, from the 60s through the early 70s. Poems from this section included here:
THE EUROPEAN SHOE
DEVELOPMENTS
OLD SCHOOL TIES
THE BLOCKHOUSE

Phase two, I’m calling “The Prose Poem” phase, that ran, again generally, from the late 60s through the late 70s. Poems from this section included here:
HOW A NAVY MAN GOES DOWN
THE JOURNEY ACROSS YOUR THIGH
PORTABLE WAR
CHRISTMAS ON EARTH & OTHER VACATIONS WITH PAY
IN THE HOSPITAL
CORNELIA & HER FRIENDS

Phase three, which I’m calling the essay phase, that ran from the early 80s through his death in 2007. Poems from this section included here:

TO PEGGY GABSON, ALREADY BACK IN HER NATIVE N.C. FROM ME, ALREADY BACK IN MY NATIVE N.Y.C. IN ANTICIPATION OF FURTHER MEETINGS IN BOSTON
OF AN ONLY CHILD’S WORLD
OF LIVING ALONE BUT NOT BROODING TOO MUCH ABOUT IT

I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I do.

-John Gallaher
Guest Editor


Poems
:

THE EUROPEAN SHOE

DEVELOPMENTS

OLD SCHOOL TIES

THE BLOCKHOUSE

HOW A NAVY MAN GOES DOWN

THE JOURNEY ACROSS YOUR THIGH

PORTABLE WAR

CHRISTMAS ON EARTH & OTHER VACATIONS WITH PAY

IN THE HOSPITAL

CORNELIA & HER FRIENDS

TO PEGGY GABSON, ALREADY BACK IN HER NATIVE N.C. FROM ME, ALREADY BACK IN MY NATIVE N.Y.C. IN ANTICIPATION OF FURTHER MEETINGS IN BOSTON

OF AN ONLY CHILD’S WORLD

OF LIVING ALONE BUT NOT BROODING TOO MUCH ABOUT IT



Writing from Israel: Poets, Poems, and Translations

This gathering of poetry includes the work of eight Israeli poets—four who write in English and four who write (or wrote) in Hebrew. Of course, Israeli poets write in other languages—Arabic, Russian, and French—to name a few of those languages. But this sampling allowed a place to begin a conversation, about writing as a foreigner in one’s own country, and about translation not only as a means to enlarge the world of poetry, but also as a way to breathe in the culture, language, and literature of a place into one’s own body.

The four English-language poets, who include Dara Barnat, Joanna Chen, Jane Medved, and Marcela Sulak, immigrated to Israel for different reasons—family, marriage, career, perhaps even ideology. But what binds them together, besides their mother tongue, is literature. Not only do they share a passion for the writing of poetry, but also a deep interest and commitment to the literature of the place in which they find themselves. About these topics and others, the five of us debated online in a sometimes-chaotic exchange. A version of our conversation is posted on The Bakery blog. Their words best explain the difficulty and beauty of writing from such a turbulent country, why they turned to translation, and how, even after living in Israel years, they cannot say with certainty that they are Israeli poets. Their words (and their work) best explain how such estrangement continues to serve as catalyst for their own poetry.

The four poets that they translate are likewise a diverse group. Agi Mishol is one of Israel’s most well-known and awarded poets. She’s received just about every possible Israeli prize in literature and published more than a dozen books. Orit Gidali and Gili Haimovich belong to what might be called Israel’s new wave of contemporary poets although, it must be added, together they have published more than seven books in Hebrew and are widely acclaimed. Dan Pagis, who immigrated to Israel in 1946 from what is now the Ukraine, was a poet, lecturer, and Holocaust survivor. Pagis was part of a generation of Israeli poets who revolutionized Hebrew poetry and, more than twenty-five years after his death, remains one of Israel’s literary touchstones.

The work of this group of eight poets is only a small sample of the rich and varied literature of Israel. Yet they are representative and their poetry is, without argument, gorgeous, inspired, and inspiring. As a citizen of the US and of Israel and, most importantly, as a poet, it was and is an enormous honor to work with them and to present some of their work.

Sarah Wetzel
Guest Editor




Poets:

Dara Barnat Photo
Dara Barnat

Joanna Chen Photo
Joanna Chen

Orit Gidali Photo
Orit Gidali (translated from Hebrew by Marcela Sulak)

Gili Haimovich Photo
Gili Haimovich (translated from Hebrew by Dara Barnat)

SONY DSC
Jane Medved


Agi Mishol Photo
Agi Mishol (translated from Hebrew by Joanna Chen)

Pagis.Dan
Dan Pagis (translated from Hebrew by Jane Medved)

Marcela Sulak Photo
Marcela Sulak





About the Guest Editor:
IMG_0061


Sarah Wetzel, poet and engineer, is the author of Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry and was published in 2010 by Anhinga Press. After job-hopping across Europe and the Americas, Sarah currently divides time between New York and Tel Aviv, Israel. She graduated from Georgia Tech in 1989, and in 1997, received a MBA from Berkeley. Sarah completed a MFA from Bennington College in January 2009. Her poems and essays appear in Israeli and American publications including Barrow Street, Valparaiso, Quiddity, Rattle, CALYX, Nimrod, and others.




last comments
Andrew
Andrew

Hi, I'm interested in making contact with Israeli poets when I am in Israel the first…
Gili Haimovich
Gili Haimovich

Hi Andrew, I'm not sure if I'll be available. But if you'd like, you're welcome to contact me via…

Poetas y Diwatas

Guest Editor: Barbara Jane Reyes

Before I ever had a name for it, I was already engaged in the work of centering Pinay narratives and voices. For the past two decades, I have thought of my poetry as doing just that; I am a Pinay poet and my speakers and/or personae are Pinays thinking about their own lives, telling their own stories. I always thought it was that simple.

But I am frequently asked whether writing about Pinay-ness has limited me.

Being Pinay is a fact of who I am. I was birthed by a Pinay, and raised by Pinays. Pinays have given me my value system. My Pinay-ness is the filter through which the world views and handles me, cross references me against what they (think they) know about people in the world who look like me.

Third world baby making machines. Blue passport seekers. American soldier lovers. Pleasers of white men. Nurses. Maids. Nannies. Prostitutes. Mail Order Brides. “Comfort Women.” Victims of atrocity. Bodies in commerce.

Ignoring this fact, making believe it isn’t so won’t stop it from being so.

Ignoring this fact, making believe it isn’t so would limit me.

I write about what is most important to me, what is most pressing to me, and in writing the specifics of these, have found that what most resonates with readers is the struggle for personhood, the insistence upon humanity of my speakers and personae, above and beyond ethnicity.

I write, “before I had a name for it,” because as I have been engaged in my decades-long Pinay-centric poetic projects, Professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales has been working too, at giving name, substance, and depth, at creating a discipline that is the necessarily Pinay-centric work of carving out and centering Pinay spaces for dialogue, cultural production, and community work. This is Pinayism.

In these spaces, such as this one here, in our work as writers, artists, educators, mentors, leaders and members of community, we have the opportunity to tease out the layers and contradictions of history, identity, and experience, to interrogate the filters through which the world views us, and in doing so, create and proliferate our own narratives.


-Barbara Jane Reyes



Poetas y Diwatas:


Joi Barrios




Arlene Biala




Sasha Pimentel Chacon




Rachelle Cruz




Luisa Igloria




Karen Llagas




Melissa Roxas




Melissa Sipin




Eileen Tabios




Jean Vengua





About the Guest Editor:

Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry and a finalist for the California Book Award. She was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco(Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. She is also the author of the chapbooks Easter Sunday (Ypolita Press, 2008) Cherry(Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2008), and For the City that Nearly Broke Me (Aztlan Libre Press, 2012).

An Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, she received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley and her M.F.A. at San Francisco State University. She is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, where she teaches Filipino/a Literature in Diaspora, and Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature. She has also taught Filipino American Literature at San Francisco State University, and graduate poetry workshop at Mills College, and currently serves on the board of Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA). She lives with her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, in Oakland, where she is co-editor of Doveglion Press.




Featured Poet: Martin Rock

Martin Rock is a poet, editor, and educator living in Brooklyn. His poems have found homes in Best New Poets 2012, Black Warrior Review, Conduit, DIAGRAM, Forklift Ohio, H_NGM_N, The Journal, Salamander, Sixth Finch, Tampa Review, and others. He is the co-author, with Phillip D. Ischy, of Fish, You Bird (Pilot 2010) and the poems featured in The Bakery are from a forthcoming chapbook, Dear Mark (Brooklyn Arts Press 2013). He has received fellowships from the Port Townsend Writers Conference and New York University. Martin is Editor in Chief, designer, and webmaster of Loaded Bicycle, an online journal of poetry, art, and translation. He lived in Japan for three and a half years and is working on a number of translations from the Japanese. His Twitter handle is @martinerikrock and his website is martinrockpoetry.com. He wants you to vote, especially if you read poetry.

Artist’s Statement: All these poems are from a manuscript titled Dear Mark, which is a series of epistolary poems to Mark Rothko in response to individual paintings. Initially they were all sonnets, as I felt the repetition of the form would fit the repetition of Rothko’s form, and I felt that the rectangular block of words would act as a visual portal in a similar way that the rectangles of the paintings do. I was wrong. After sitting with the poems, I saw that they didn’t fit in their spaces, which I feel is a thing that can be said about Mark Rothko’s work as well. People have immense emotional reactions to Rothko paintings, and part of this (at least for me) is the existence of three-dimensional images lying in wait just beneath a screen of color. The paintings are quite literally embodied, and the rectangle acts as a doorway through which those bodies can communicate with the viewer. This leads to the release of a wellspring of (in many cases repressed) emotions and images.

The idea of embodiment in art led me to the idea of embodiment in the psyche (ie. the many-peopled totality of the human mind; both conscious and unconscious), which in turn led me to the theories of Carl Jung, particularly those of the Collective Unconscious and the archetypes that inhabit it. When one looks at a Rothko painting and sees, for example, “a malformed zygote” or “death’s head on the body of a spider,” or the mythic hero of Raven the Trickster, one may in fact be tapping into a pool of knowledge greater than the sum of one’s own experiences (similar, perhaps, to the consciousness attained during meditation, spiritual trances, while on hallucinogens, or in the dream state).

For this reason, the majority of the discordant images in these poems are simply verbal recordings of visions that emerged from the paintings as I sat in front of them. Whether the images emerged from the random firings of my own dew-addled brain, or from a larger, more mystical Collective Unconscious is a question for the metaphysician and not the poet. Regardless, Rothko’s paintings allowed me to access that most slippery of states in which images arise and are released as plainly as leaves passing on the surface of a river.

And yet (a dew drop world); and yet, the poem (even haiku) is not complete within the image. Once the images have been harvested they must be processed. A narrative must be built around them if we are to understand the workings of our own minds. Humanity is nothing without our myths, and myth (and yes, poetry as well) must contain more than fragmented dissonant images piled on top of one another. I hope these poems find that balance. I hope that the images are mined from a place of Truth, and that the material containing them, sufficiently tempered.

Poems:

No. 61, Rust & Blue, 1953
Ochre & Red on Red, 1954
No. 9, Dark over light Earth, 1954
No. 9, White & Black on Wine, 1958
No. 43, Mauve, 1960
No. 1, Black Form, 1964
No. 7, Black Form, 1964