Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Interviewee Publishes Her Interview - Sarah Sarai on Geographies

When Geographies of Soul and Taffeta (Indolent Books) was published this April, poet Karen Craigo sent me some questions to answer and suggested I could substitute my own questions. That photo was taken by Michael Broder, founder of Indolent Press at the book party at Zinc Bar, in Greenwich Village.

What did you want to be when you grew up, and why?

I was an enfant terrible of an existentialist who excelled at being what I was – young. I knew I’d been born and knew I would die but having no sense of becoming an adult I suffered no imagined adult iteration of myself. At age seven I fetishized lipstick smears on coffee cups, and couldn’t wait to make this art myself. I was an eight-year-old Annie Oakley. A nine-year-old lawyer in black heels which clicked on the courtroom floor. A friend of most characters in most novels.

What is one poem you particularly enjoyed writing?

“White Tunnel and the Night Return” burst from emotion recollected in an emotional state (as opposed to Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquillity [sic]”). On the way home from a difficult situation late at night, I ran into a keep-your-head-down ruckus on the subway. Jittery and jittery I was compelled to jot down a version of the first stanza, “I was vessel, dumb animal receptor. / DNA snaked me into life, / three insurrectionist rivers carried me. / Antiquity was my patron saint.” Even the refrain. “Jesus, dance with me. / Mary, in your arms.” came to me on the train. I love, if I may be allowed to love something I wrote, the poem’s feel, which I liken to the Muslim call to prayer which puts voice to church bells. Jesus isn’t Jesus and Mary isn’t Mary, although they both are who they are, as well as mystics and comfort.

Describe your worst poetic habit.

Poetic habits? Hmmm. Isn’t a “poetic habit” twisting my locks whilst doing a plie? Wistfully gazing at lambs leaping in a meadow? Weaving bright ribbons of grosgrain and silk to wear in May? I’m being silly and annoyingly so. Of course you mean the bad habits of a poet. While I will often write out the first draft of a poem – on paper – in longhand, subsequent drafts are on the computer. My bad habit here is that I don’t save draft and so have any partial history of a poem to refresh my thinking and creativity.

It’s time someone put out an anthology of poems about ___.

The sun. Hardware stores on Saturday mornings. Root vegetables. Elephants. Torture. An anthology of poems about grunge. Metal. Nightmares. Elves. What the world really needs is an anthology of poems about cats. Also, someone should invent YouTube. And load it with cats. And cute babies. And sex. Lots of sex.

It’s your poetic obituary! Finish it up, but not with your bio—finish it with an essential statement about your poetry.

My corpse is betrothed to Science. Will Science pay for a headstone? Thanks for asking, because if Science doesn’t pay for a headstone, please alert someone I want one. “Sarah Sarai, Loving Poet” will do. May groundskeepers, passersby, and friends leave irises, fuchsia, bougainvillea, narcissus, roses, night-blooming jasmine at my feet. Or head.

Indolent Books is an indie press. Its founder and everything-er is Michael H. Broder, poet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Truman Capote Doesn't Show at the 28th Lammys

The Early Stories of Truman Capote was nominated for a Lammy this year.  Therefore Mr. Capote was issued a name badge. Expectations ran high. While he was unable to pick his up owing his ectoplasmy state - if it's not gin it's ectoplasm, I say, one of the Lambda volunteers wore it in Mr. C's honor. Or in her honor. Or in honor of Lambda and name badges and volunteers.  The awards were Monday night in Manhattan. Fun was had by many. Hilton Als, who edited the collection of stories, was named Trustee for Literary Excellence, which is neato and well-deserved. I used to love reading Als' movie reviews in The New York Times. Now he writes for The New Yorker and co.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Poem: The Good Samarium, or an Element of Science

The Good Samarium, or an Element of Science

V.E. Samarsky-Bykjovets granted access to the minerals so
Paul Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran could discover samarium
which shouldn’t he have named Samarskyum but he didn’t
but who cares because a mix and match, whatever, with
samarium cobalt magnets led to the first Sony Walkman.                             

So, pal, try and tell me science hasn’t made your life better.

Sarah Sarai, all mining rights reserved.
Photo: An abandoned mine in the Ural Mountains, perhaps similar to one Samarsky-Bykjovets owned.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Letter Sent to Yale Univ. About Naming a Building After Calhoun

[Emailed 5.31.16] 
Dear all:  Thank you for open access to the museums. I've Metroed up from NYC for Yale's remarkable collections now and then, to thrill in the work. I am disappointed, however, that Yale is racist, promotes racism, aggressively stands by racist personages who shame the U.S. How else to interpret naming a building after Calhoun. This action is wrong; plain-out, straight-ahead wrong. Not especially because New Haven is a town with many Black people, although that fact doesn't strengthen Peter Salovey's immoral decision. I don't threaten but I do my part to objcct to this Trumpish celebratory sneering at this country's attempts to pursue the experiment of equality.  Two articles. (1) James Baldwin's NYT review of Roots; 1976. (2) James W. Loewen's "10 Questions for Yale's President." My reason for the latter needs no explanation. As for Baldwin - he informs Salovey that Salovey "need[s] the moral authority of ... former slaves, who are the only people in the world who know anything about ... [Salovey] and who may be, indeed, the only people in the world who really care anything about [him]." I suggest no person of merit or discernment gives a crap about Salovey. Me? I very much dislike shoddy thinkers. True, I'm no one of any importance and have minus-zero wealth. But I do not want anyone I love to have more struggle in their life for any reason and certainly not because a "leader" with lackluster thinking skills is willing to cause harm because he doesn't understand what harm is. I ask you to resist naming so much as a shed after a man who caused so much pain. We don't erase Calhouns from history but we don't celebrate them.

Most sincerely,
Sarah Sarai

emailed 5.31.16
to: (many are in charge of helping to organize "gifts" to Yale),,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
The above illustration is one of the less heart- and gut-wrenching visuals of slavery. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

"Flight" - E. Ethelbert Miller - the silver of her / wings - #poem


(for June)

she steps off the
plane with
the silver of her
wings still caught
in her hair

the space between us
is not distance

the flight of my hand
towards her
gives no shadow

E. Ethelbert Miller. First published in Gargoyle #5 (Richard Peabody, ed.).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Karrie Waarala - The Sword Swallower's Mother Speaks - a poem

The Sword Swallower’s Mother Speaks

I don't recall now what stole my attention,
one of my other children tugging at my nerves,
or my husband barking at the gardener,
or maybe just the way the sheets billowed
on the clothesline like sails.

But when I looked back down to my breast
I saw milk flooding my son's tiny face.

It gurgled down into his lungs, his eyes
mirrored the shiny distance of my own.
My boy didn't know enough to gag,
just kept working that trusting mouth,
and I still wonder if it was all my fault.

If I was the first to smash the gates of his throat
into a wide open invitation to danger.

His childhood frayed me. The queasy rush
of finding him with butter knife pressed
against his small voice. The need to break
all his pencils to stubs too small to swallow.
The bullying jostle of his older brothers.

The hostile smolder of his father barely hidden
behind the dinner table evening newspaper.

Eventually I hummed loudly enough
to almost wash over the shouting as I
scrubbed crusted blood from the steak knives,
learned to turn away from his lacerated tongue,
the restless hands, the bruised knees.

My throat never let loose the words
that would teach him how to choke.

The night he left I listened to the cloth
of a young life being shoved into bags
and did nothing to reel my boy back to me.
I just whispered to his closed door and went
to bed, tried not to be relieved in the dark.
In the morning I pretended not to notice
that everything sharp was gone.

By Karrie Waarala. 
Copyright belongs to Karrie Waarala. Please click on her name for more information about her poetry. “The Sword Swallower’s Mother Speaks” was published in Issue Thirty-Two of The Collagist, March 2012.