Ponder, if you will…

“In theory one would think that power belongs to brute force. In fact, this is not the case at all: power is wielded by the magician, by the man with subtle sleight of hand. It belongs to the light-fingered cutpurse. Power belongs to art.”

–Andrei Sinyavsky (1925-1997). Excerpted from A Voice From The Chorus; translated by Kyril FitzLyon and Max Hayward.

In my senior year of high school, lingering in Miami High’s library, I began noticing these interesting names on book spines: Zamyatin, Voznesensky, Mihajlov–to name a few.

I’d been introduced to Russian writing courtesy of a very, very shambolic World Literature class. And over the fateful summer of 1982, I introduced myself to the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn (One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich) and the collected stories of Nikolai Gogol.

One book I read during that final year of HS: a slightly acrid, bisque-paged collection of essays by a Bulgarian writer, Mihajlo Mihajlov, titled Russian Themes. And I came across a strange name in those essays: Abram Tertz, a fiction writer whose work had to be smuggled out of the USSR and back again. The more I read about him, the more I wanted to read his stories.

That would not happen, however, for several years. In which time I learned that “Abram Tertz” was a pseudonym for Andrei Sinyavsky, and that, along with a contemporary of his (Yuli Daniel, aka “Nikolai Arzhak”), he was arrested, tried and sentenced to seven years in Soviet labor camps.

But nothing prepared me for A Voice From The Chorus, culled from the letters which he sent, from camp, to his wife, Maria. It was a tour de force: musings on art, on prison life, on whatever caught his interest. And I had to read it, again and again.

And it is a book that I reread even now–a fascinating glimpse into the Brezhnev years, the persecution of writers and artists after Stalin’s death, and what moves a writer to craft and create.


Bienvenidos a microlandia!

The Blue Christmas Party, last night, was great fun. Hearing John Dufresne, Diana Abu-Jaber, et alia read excerpts from the anthology lifted my spirits. (Of course, the blue mojitos, cake, and jelly orange slices didn’t hurt–neither did the friendliness of the audience. I ran into more than a couple of people I’d met earlier…)
Sunday morning rolled around, and found me in a funk. Took a little while to get up, but my cat, Ten-Ten, got fed, and so did I (peanut butter toast and iced coffee). Thankfully, I took an umbrella, or the squally weather would have kept me inside.
Divine Liturgy was good, though at several points I did feel that I might burst into tears. But the service passed without drama, and afterward, there was a rehearsal for the Christmas pageant–followed by lunch at Maroosh. The mezze alone were filling, and the kebabs (chicken and kofta) left me a little stuffed. Sadly, I did not snag any baklava or coffee, but that might have been overkill.
Came home, did a little washing, and took a nap, Ten-Ten curling into me. Woke up an hour later, got out. Tried to drop off a few DVDs at Ozzie’s–not there, so I just walked on.
I’ve been rereading Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, and mulling over the nature of this shadow sharer in my life. I suppose I’ve wanted to understand what this depression is, what triggers it, how it comes and goes, since I was a kid, and experiencing the pain and strangeness of my family’s disintegration. (Nineteen seventy-five was a traumatic year, let’s just say.) I’m not a psychologist, but I have learned a few things over time:
depression is pretty slippery and mutable; it never affects the same way twice; it has flared up around the holidays–and more recently, around the birth-and deathdays of my parents; it’s often accompanied by anxiety, which leaves me feeling dumbstruck; and I wonder how I can find a way to communicate what is going on.
People are kind (in the main), and when they advise me to take supplements, cheer up, buck up, yadada yadada, they do so with the best of intentions. Comforting, yes, but more often than not, frustrating. If I could flip depression off and on, oh, do believe I’d try to permastick the switch in the OFF position. It’s not as though I wake up and say to myself, “Hey, today I’m just going to spend the day shambling along like a sleepwalker. No–better yet–I’m going to stay in bed, sleep the afternoon away, and just pass time listless and apathetic. Call it a plan!” But I digress.
Working retail during the holidays has always been a draining experience. Between playing diplo with customers, fielding advice, the nonstop sensory assault of decorations, bad music, and the compulsory cheeriness that one must show in public, I’m surprised that I haven’t come to despise the season altogether. The last two Christmases have been stressful in their own way; I honestly did not want to spend the last one with D and his family. Not that they weren’t lovely or gracious, or that the dinner and company were horrible, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling of sadness that I couldn’t spend the time with my parents, my maternal grandmother, or my great-grandmother. Yes, it was wonderful to read Brodsky after the Nochebuena dinner; thoughtful to receive a cute bit of wall art; enjoy sangria and eggnog. But I wanted my mom. I wanted my dad. Kind as they all were, D’s family was not my family! And after the festivities, I felt guilty at the relief of not having to put on a face for company.
Moving along…
I wrote several micropoems today. I didn’t get much done yesterday with Set List, but writing lifted my spirits somewhat. I am toying with the notion of putting out a collection of micropoetry–but let me finish the first collection and get that published before I wear myself out! Since I have composed bilingual micropoems (Spanish-English, Spanish-Portuguese), Microlandia may make a great title. What d’you think?

A new book…?

I finally got my hands on Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. A thick, weighty volume, and, I hope, a worthwhile read for November. Alas, he will not be making an appearance at the Miami Book Fair this coming week–I do, however, hope that Books & Books will host him.

Murakami aside, I would love to see a panel at the Book Fair (or at a seminar) on dystopian fiction. Here is a rich genre, worth reading. writing, and discussion.

Last year, when the playwright (a good musician who was angling for a Hollywood deal–pity the dramas were so dreadful) was at my old apartment, I showed him a copy of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel, We. He recoiled on discovering that I had handed him a dystopia, calling it “Satanic.” (A rich irony, considering that he deemed himself a feminist–so long as the “feminism” in question was heteronormative!)

I could have told him that dystopian fiction served as a foil for utopian works–a counterbalance to the sometimes feverish optimism that progress, progress, progress would bring about an earthly paradise, free from pain, disease, suffering…I could have said that, while it’s good to want freedom, justice, happiness and the like, it’s easy to get blindsided, that in the pursuit of heaven lay the danger of serving hell.

Actually, I did try telling him this.

He didn’t want to hear me.



The latest issue of Poets & Writers┬áis worth the look-see. From the cover interview of Joan Didion, to great advice, and contests galore; there’s an abundance of riches!

Working on the Set List…

Since I decided to work on Set List, I’ve transcribed 13 poems, thus far. Frankly, it’s shocking to realize that I’ve gotten this far on the manuscript.
But breaking it down into small pieces has made it easier, and since I am still using Library computers, less frustrating. (I don’t have access to the Library on Sundays or holidays, so the time I do have is crucial!)

And whether I get an honorarium or not, I am determined to publish this collection, even if only locally.

In the meantime: the “lost book” incident ended happily. They were, after all, at home. (Feel free to laugh. I did!) And the gallery opening, plus the reading, were wonderful.

Tonight is First Friday in the Gables, meaning the galleries (and other establishments) will be open and brimming with life. I’m looking forward to the art, the beauty, and the ligging. (Starving artist meme be damned; even artists need a little sustenance!)

I finished rereading The Same Solitude and Death of A Poet: The Last Days of Marina Tsvetaeva. Am halfway through Against Happiness by Eric G. Wilson.

Since time is brief, and things are getting noisy (the children’s room is overrun with teens and it gets raucous), let me sign out now!

Poetic debauchery, end of October.

I’m excited tonight. The weekend before Halloween is jam-packed: Alice In Wonderland at The Barnacle, costume parties and contests from West Palm to the Keys, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show playing at O Cinema. (To think, ten years ago, Miami was an indie theatre wasteland! Happily, things have changed.)
Closer to home, a new gallery is opening in the space that used to house Lion Video. While I’m still saddened that the place is gone, I’m thrilled to see another art venue–and it’s just a block away! Tonight is also the Famous Last Friday at Books & Books, and I have a new poem–Halloween-themed–just for the occasion. My sweet friend, Ozzie, has also mentioned inviting some other friends over for a little Hallows shindig. So I’m keeping my ears open there…
I’m also compiling a manuscript for publication. Set List will contain poetry I’ve written over this past year, including two sections of prose poetry and gogyokha. I want to have the pieces complete before the end of November, and submission ready.
Finished rereading Sweet Heaven When I Die; here is a book I want on my shelf, for life. Very resonant reading. Also have finished rereading Simon Sebag Montefiore. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar and Young Stalin are essential reading for anyone into Russian history, the Soviet era, or who wants an in-depth view of one of the most infamous, vicious tyrants of the 20th Century.

Rainy Monday

Yesterday (and today) have seen torrents of rain, coming down–so much so, that there’s a flood watch till eight this evening.
While I didn’t have any coffee, I did enjoy the pleasure of reading two books–one on Nick Drake, titled Darker Than the Deepest Sea: in Search of Nick Drake, by Trevor Dann, and Goodbye, Chunky Rice, a graphic novel by Craig Thompson. Also wrote three poems while inside.
I’m looking forward to this evening at Books and Books: Tigertailis launching their latest issue, and the Socrates Cafe is also meeting. Oh, dilemma, dilemma…

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