May: and some news to follow, but, first, our “secret poem”: Neruda’s all too timely “I’m Explaining a Few Things,” introduced by long-time Plume contributor Margo Berdeshevsky.
AGAIN, A HOLE IN THE HEART OF HUMANITY
Allow me to begin this page with a short Ars Poetica, yes, one of mine:
Poetry: language of the soul. My nemesis. My grace.
Racing horse. Cave of blankets. Cave of scorpions.
Cave of milk. More than I deserve. Less than wind
between breasts. Pebbles. Stones. A little more than
grief. Ecstasy’s infant. Good for me. Secret.
Egotistical. Dawn’s ghost, under nakedness. Slow
stations of an unspoken cross. A religion, if I let it. A kiss
on my forehead (as I sleep.) A thing with fingers asking
the next question. Asking if it is love. Susceptible
to cross-genre. Susceptible to mourning.
And now, after Syria, and after our poetry, I dare to say this:
And when is mourning ENOUGH?
This week as the first reports of poisoning devastation in Syria stopped our collective breaths around the world, for the dying breaths of the suffocating humans there in a country ripped and torn by horrific years and years—yes, children—yes—women—yes—men—yes, humans—all in that mangled country, I whispered, recalling Theodor Adorno and all his fellow poets after WWII. There can be no poetry after Auschwitz.
But as a fellow poet whispered, last week, Syria has become—is one more—is, again—IS—a hole in the heart of humanity.
And I concurred, and returned to the Adorno words, and to the chasm in my own heart. The sense that words are no longer to be of use in these times, either. But that is not enough to say or to explain or to live on with, is it? And so, yes, after Syria, and after our poetry, I dare only to say this: And when is mourning ENOUGH?
Because there is always, it seems, a moment after the after.
Thanks to inspiration of “Voices of Poetry” master of ceremonies, and guide,” Neil Silberblatt, I read and reread, at first, just these lines from Pablo Neruda’s take-me-to-my-knees poem, “I’m Explaining a Few Things”:
“…and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts….”
And I remembered to remember that words, our words as poets, might scorch, and yes, cleanse the ruined, emptied heart. Our words as poets remember, and dare to live, and remind.
Neruda’s poem speaks to Spain and its civil war, but oh dear God, how it speaks to our now, in Syria.
And so, yes, when is mourning enough for Syria and each, each other land?
At the end of this essay, I include a portrait of Neruda as a very young man. But here, I’d like to insert these detail-images from a painting by Pablo Picasso, which seem to me all too apt.
They aid, I believe, in the needed pause, to remind and to remember . . . more than a few things.
And now, to the entirety of the Neruda poem written originally in his ‘Spain in the Heart” in 1937. Because even after … there is, yes, astonishingly, poetry.
I’m Explaining a Few Things
You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics ?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?’
I’ll tell you all the news.
I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks and trees.
From there you could look out
Over Castille’s dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
where the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Argüelles with its statue
Like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down to the sea.
And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings –
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
Bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
Bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.
Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!
Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.
And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?
Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!
This is a photograph of the very young Pablo Neruda:
Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto. He derived his pen name from the Czech poet Jan Neruda. Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. “The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el Corazón (1937).”
Neruda’s biography on the Nobel Prize website is to be found here:
MARGO BERDESHEVSKY, born in New York City, often writes in Paris. Her newest book, Before The Drought, is about to be published in June by Glass Lyre Press, (In an early version, it was finalist for the National Poetry Series, 2015. Berdeshevsky is author as well of the poetry collections Between Soul & Stone, and But a Passage in Wilderness (Sheep Meadow Press.) Her book of illustrated stories, Beautiful Soon Enough, received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for Fiction Collective Two (University of Alabama Press.) Other honors include the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America, a portfolio of her poems in the Aeolian Harp Anthology #1 (Glass Lyre Press,) the & Now Anthology of the Best of Innovative Writing, numerous Pushcart prize nominations. Her works appear in the American journals Poetry International, New Letters, Kenyon Review, Plume, The Collagist, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Southern Humanities Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, among many others. In Europe her works have been seen in The Poetry Review (UK) The Wolf, Europe, Siècle 21, & Confluences Poétiques. A multi genre novel, Vagrant, and a hybrid of poems, Square Black Key, wait at the gate. She may be found reading from her books in London, Paris, New York City, or somewhere new in the world. Her “Letters from Paris” may be found in Poetry International, here: http://pionline.wordpress.com/category/letters-from-paris/
For more information, kindly see: http://margoberdeshevsky.blogspot.com/
–And now for news.
First, thanks to all concerned — especially Peter Meinke, Helene Wallace, Greg Byrd, Tina March, and Paul Wilborn –for their help in bringing Robert Pinsky to our city to read for Plume and St. Petersburg College. It was a marvelous series of readings – as many of you know, Robert is able to pull from memory a startling number of poems, there on the spot – a bit like doing requests. And his Favorite Poem Project – videos of people of every conceivable identification reading their favorite poems and talking about them (the construction worker reading Whitman, a photographer, Seph Rodney reading Sylvia Plath are favorites) — these were played as the audiences filed in and waited for Robert to appear. I have never seen a more rapt group of students, of poetry lovers and first-timers. They connected with the poems and the readers in a visceral way: they could see themselves there, on the screen, I think. In any case, I was sold, immediately. We will be working hard in this city – Saint Petersburg – to bring the project to life. To all of you who teach, I could not recommend the site more highly – it’s at http://www.favoritepoem.org/ Truly, a marvel.
Might I take another moment to hawk the new print anthology? I think all contributors now have their copies – I have seen a number of “book selfies” on FB, Twitter, etc. and some very kind comments. Should you know a reviewer who might want to…well…enough. Reviews of anthologies are hard to come by. But, please do see below, again. If you like, purchase a copy for yourself, a friend – or as some already are doing, order in bulk for your writing class (with attendant discount). Available through our Store on the Plume homepage, MadHat Press, Amazon, B&N, et cetera.
Also available at those sites, Plume Interviews, a compilation of Feature Selection conversations with Nin Andrews, Christopher Buckley, David Clewell, Cynthia Cruz, Jim Daniels, Tess Gallagher, Ani Gjika, Hank Lazer, Luljeta Lleshanaku, Amit Mujmudar, Lawrence Matsuda, Thomas McCarthy, Emmanuel Moses, D. Nurkse, Max Ritvo, Ira Sadoff, Adam Tavel, Jean Valentine, and Marc Vincenz. Edited by Nancy Mitchell, with some small contributions from me; interviewers include Ani Gjika, Hélène Cardona, and Glenn Mott, as well.
We have now completed our project of including issue #s and months with each poem, which should be a help to readers. Much gratitude to Staff member Bryan Duffy for this. Next, Bryan will turn his attention to updating the Newsletter files; we’ll be subscribing anyone whose poems have appeared in Plume or have been accepted. If this does not please you, it is merely a matter of clicking the Unsubscribe button – an opt out system, I suppose.
Longer range plans include a site overhaul. Some issues I want to address include the space available for images on the homepage (too little); the lack of line breaks in the excerpts; uncorrupted presentation with all devices and across all platforms. Maybe we’ll tweak the font a little, too – a shade darker for easier reading. Nothing too intrusive – barely noticeable to the majority of readers, I imagine, and that’s what we’re aiming for.
In this issue’s Editor’s Note, you’ll be find, happily, that I once again have ceded my space to another. This time, it’s David Breskin, whose timely work…well, let me offer his introduction’s first sentences:
Remember those great black and white movie montages….where the pages of a calendar begin to turn, or tear, first slowly, then faster and faster, finally flying off into the air, as if blown by a summer wind or whipped by a winter gale? This wasn’t that. On February 1, 2016, the date of the Iowa Caucus, the traditional onside kick which begins every presidential scrum, I decided to write a single poem “about” the election.
Intrigued? I was. Read it and I think you also be astonished, as I was at its conclusion. The day David delivered the excerpt he was going into the Audible studies to record it. I think it’s going to be a hit, as they say.
Again, too, we are gearing up for readings in support of Plume Poetry 5. Should you have an interest in hosting one in your city, please email me at email@example.com
Not quite last, a word bout Plume Editions, which has prospered. In a year, we have published the following:
Plume Poetry 5 Plume – The Interviews
Nin Andrews, Our Lady of the Orgasm
Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda, Boogie Woogie Criss-Cross
W.S. DiPiero — The Man on the Water
Upcoming for 2017-2018:
J. T. Barbarase, True Does Nothing
J. T. Barbarase, After Prévert
Sally Bliumus-Dunn, Echolocation
Robin Behn, Quarry Cross
One or two others will be added to the list above. I am happy that things have gone as well as they have, and I thank all of our authors. Should you have a manuscript you would like us to consider, please send a query email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, our cover art this month comes from William Eggleston. The main catalyst for New American Color Photography, Eggleston is largely credited with legitimizing color photography (especially with the dye transfer process) as a fine art form. Teaching himself from books of prints by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, he began photographing his environment in the 1950s but turned to color, then used largely only commercially, in the late 1960s. Eggleston’s 1976 “Color Photographs” show at the Museum of Modern Art was groundbreaking for its striking, saturated color but also for his observational style, often deemed “democratic.”