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.

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From the chorus…

We do not write a phrase–it writes itself, and all we do is to clarify, as far as we are able, the accumulated meaning concealed within it.

Andrei Sinyavsky, aka Abram Tertz (1925-1997). From A Voice From The Chorus; translated by Kyril FitzLyon and Max Hayward.

A taster for National Poetry Month

“Poetry is in everything–in land and in sea, in lake and in riverside. It is in the city too–deny it not–it is evident to me here as I sit: there is poetry in this table, in this paper, in this inkstand; there is poetry rattling of the cars on the streets, in each minute, common, ridiculous motion of a workman who [on] the other side of the street is painting the signboard of a butcher’s shop.”

–Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935); from The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, edited and translated by Richard Zenith; New York; Grove Press, 2001.

Setenta y cinco.

I am looking forward to National Poetry Month. This much, I can say for sure.

Kinda disappointed, gente!

I put out calls for submissions for Microlandia! the journal-zine of microwriting last month, here and at my Tumblr.

Did I not press hard enough for submissions? Or give enough incentive? Was there some sort of magical formula that I could have used to garner writing from around the ether?

I grant that, on my part, there’s more than enough to preoccupy; I have to work out how not to get evicted from my humble abode, find work, and at least print a rough Issue Zero. I’ve also been recovering from a horrific brace of events, including two frustrating yard sale Saturdays, getting hit by a car (bruises and scrapes, but still traumatic), days in bed with a cold, and marking the third anniversary of my mom’s death day.

Still, I was hoping for some response beyond likes and vague happy noises. So imagine, if you please, my utter disappointment and frustration at the lack of enthusiasm–nothing, zip, zilch, nada, zero!

Now if I have to, I will go Little Red Hen and publish this as a chapzine. But I would have liked to read microwriting from other folks.

Time to regroup, I suppose. But I do mean to get Microlandia! off the ground, with or without other contributors.

So if anyone’s listening, and wants to leave their mark, stay tuned for a new deadline. But if this one falls on dear ears and numb hands, well, I’ll push on, all the same.

Call for submissions!

Heads up, writerly writers! The premiere issue of Microlandia! needs your work. I’m looking for micropoetry (haiku, e.g.), microprose (fiction and nonfiction, 250 words max), micromemoirs (same word count), and writing prompts, no later than March 18, 2012.

I can only repay in copies of this journal/zine, but let’s start here and see how things shake out.

Submit your work at aherreracg@gmail.com, and include your name and street address, so I can send your copy to you. Thanks ever so!

New Year, new…?

I’m not making resolutions.

Much like organizational systems, I find them dodgy: more the feeling that you’re doing something, which is, often, not the case. All the agendas, seminars, motivational materials on the planet cannot guarantee better work/use of time/personality.

Neither can the whole unholy host of resolutions people make for the coming year. Give up smoking? Fine. Lose 10 pounds? That’s debatable. Work on road rage?

…You get the picture.

What I do want to do, in 2012, is pretty straightforward, though.

When 2013 rolls around, I’d like to see Set List and MicroLandia in circulation; to bring local poets together for a Sunday reading affair; to find work; to get my quicksilver cat up-to-date on shots, neutering, what have you; to read at least five books a month; to cook more at home; and to pay back the kindness and generosity that I’ve received over the past year and a half.

Oh, I also look forward to laughing myself silly over all the Rapture rumors, especially when they fall through.

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