Osip Mandelstam, Untruth, translated by Ian Probstein

I come with a smoking torch In the hut of a six-fingered untruth: — Let me look at you, let me watch, Since I’ll be laid in a pine coffin, struth. She treats me with pickled mushrooms, Takes a pot from under her plank-bed And serves a fresh nourishing broth Cooked from infant belly buttons. [...]

Fado

Who sleeps with me at night’s
My secret, but if you must
I’ll tell you: Fear sleeps with me ––

Just fear, which suddenly
Cradles me in the see-saw
Of loneliness, with a silence

 
Quem dorme à noite comigo?
É meu segredo, é meu segredo!
Mas se insistirem, desdigo.
O medo mora comigo,

Mas só o medo, mas só o medo!
E cedo, porque me embala
Num vaivém de solidão,
É com silêncio que fala,

The Art of Adaptation

We, human beings, have been adapting since the dawn of time. We’ve adapted to live in the most diverse ecosystems and under the most different social-political regimes. There are humans who live in the scalding heat of the Sahara desert and in the paralyzing cold of the Antarctic region. There are humans who survive in the midst of the sprawling Amazon jungle and between the towering cement jungle of Manhattan. There are humans who have endured unimaginable hatred and who have thrived against insurmountable challenges. We, as a species, are all about evolving, changing and adapting. If there’s one art we’ve collectively mastered, is the art of adaptation.

The foundation of “The League of Independent Vietnamese Writers”

The founders of the League are at risk in signing the petition. It is very brave of them to ask for more freedom of expression, because the last time it happened, in the mid-1950s following military victory over the French, poets and writers who made such a request were treated very harshly, including imprisonment, loss of their privileged positions in the Writers Association, and not having their work published for the next 40 years.

Robert and Books [on Creeley's library]

  [This essay is being published to commemorate the Notre Dame symposium. You can watch a live webcast here.] The first time I ever saw Robert, he was reading from a book. He was sitting on a high stool, with a standard mike beside him, just to one side of a busy courtyard outside the [...]

Writing to Communicate (on Wanda Coleman)

Los Angeles poet Wanda Coleman, born in 1946, died at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center on November 22, 2013. The day after my marriage to Howard, November 23, 2013, I read in the Los Angeles Times of the sad news of the death, at age 67, of poet Wanda Coleman. Her husband, Austin Straus, vaguely told the [...]

On Election Day

I hear democracy weep, on election day.
The streets are filled with brokered promise, on election day.
The miscreant’s vote the same as saint’s, on election day.
The dead unleash their fury, on election day.

Poems from Critical Condition (2013)

This poem
is unremarkable
not unlike the rest –
just for a moment,

illustrates, apathetically,
the past, it catches flies
pays interest
has no air sac

snakes, mice, thieves
scorn its grave
plush wolves howl,
its future is moot

it’s a blind bee and its mate wearing glasses
it’s tongue is no sponge
it’s antennae scent out Drummond
unable to see in the dark