Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Israel Wasserstein writes "How It Is for Eyeless Things in Caves" and more in prize-winning book.

Israel Wasserstein of Washburn University will read from his book This Ecstasy They Call Damnation and new works April 24, Thurs., at the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, 7 p.m., with Joseph Harrington. He is a life-long Kansan, and that mythos/landscape enters his work in diction as well as topics. In an interview with Miranda Ericsson, he says, “I think open landscape, and wide spaces under a sky that seems to go on forever, are always there in my poetry, even poems that don’t have anything directly to do with landscape.” In this poem, he seeks the inverse of sky, deep cave topography. Rather than sight, touch becomes the primary touch. For a sky person, this is a phantasmagoria

How It Is for Eyeless Things in Caves

Maybe they wander in, foraging deep down
for food or seeking shelter, and they get lost far
beneath the surface. Or they decide
they like it in the dampness
of the earth, where predators venture
rarely, and sunlight does not scorch
        Slowly they forget
the things they saw above, the harsh light
receding into memory,
into carefully forgotten dreams.
Then they lose sight itself
and creep along, cold as stone.
Their children are born
        knowing nothing else.

Wasserstein says of his new work, in his interview for Ericsson and the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library: “A lot of what I have is more explicitly autobiographical than much of what I’ve done previously. And there are a series of poems in the voices of villains, especially horror movie villains. I’ve long loved persona poems, and I’m engaged with pop culture and interested in marginalized voices, and I think these poems allow me to explore all of that at once.”
Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Israel Wasserstein received his BA in English from Washburn University, and his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico. He is currently a Lecturer in English at Washburn University. . His work has been published in Flint Hills Review, Red Mesa Review, Border, seveneightfive, Senses, Fickle Muses, Inscape, and others. He has also contributed work to the anthologies Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, A Face to Meet the Faces, and Earthships. His poetry collection, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, was published in 2012 and received a Kansas Notable Book Award.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Join Mammoth authors and publishers for a celebration of Mammoth’s 10th anniversary with readings by Xánath Caraza and Global Green partners Julie Unruh and Oliver Hall. Denise Low and Tom Weso, co-publishers of Mammoth and K.U. graduates, will read from Mammoth books. Refreshments will complete this end-of-the-workday event.  Other Mammoth authors will be introduced, including Stephen Meats.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stanley Lombardo Translates Vergil's Tenth Eclogue: "Love Conquers All"

Stanley Lombardo retires from the University of Kansas in May. Last month, Valentine's Day to be exact, he presented part of Vergil's tenth Eclogue as part of the celebration of his time at KU, since 1976. This is the complete Eclogue X, reprinted with his permission.
Vergil, Tenth Eclogue

One final effort: grant me, Arethusa.
one last poem for Gallus, something that
his Lycoris can read too, a few lines,
Goddess, and may your water stay sweet,
pure in the brine all the way to Sicily.

             We can start now—
our lyrics the love that twists Gallus’ guts—
while the goats crop saplings off at the root,
            a song that is heard:
 the woods will echo our every word.
                        Where were you, Naiads,
phantom swimmers in the rock pools,
when Gallus lay dying of love? Not on any
of the holy mountains, dancing on no ridge,
chanting no dirge.
Yet the laurels wept, the tamarisks.
Whole pine forests in Arcadia, Wolf Mountain’s
cold rocks shed tears for Gallus, lying
at a cliff’s foot, circled by sheep—there is no shame
in this, it is a noble tradition for poets,
even golden Adonis once tended sheep.
The cowboys came, and the swineherd, dragging,
soaked with winter acorn mash, puzzling it out:

 “What is this love, Gallus?”
                                                 Apollo came:
“Insanity. Your precious Lycoris is tramping
after somebody else up north in some army camp.”
The Forest God came, wearing a wildflower crown,
shaking huge calla lilies.
                                        Great Pan came,
Arcadia’s God stained blood-red with elderberry juice—
we saw him ourselves in broad daylight.
“Won’t you ever stop? Love doesn’t care about this,
Love never has his fill of tears, any more than grass
ever has enough water, bees clover, never enough
leaf-buds for goats, never enough.”
                                                             And Gallus:
“But you Arcadians will sing—only you
Arcadians really know how to sing—and my bones
will vibrate in tune with your mountains,
a reed-flute marking the notes, my loves.
If I could have been one of you, a shepherd,
a vine-pruner, had Leaf as a love, a passion
for Amyntas—so Amyntas is dark, violets
are black too, and hyacinths—resting
in the willows. Leaf plaiting, singing Amyntas…
Lycoris!  There are cold springs here,
soft meadows, woods,
we could spend eternity here together.
Instead, War,
insane Love traps me behind enemy lines,
and you, I don’t want to believe it,
far from home, facing Rhine winters, Alpine snows

 Don’t let the cold hurt you, your soft feet on the ice!
I’ll go,
         retune my fancy poems to an oatstraw flute
                        modulate them to Sicilian song
off to the woods
                 caves, wild animals, suffer that,
carve my love on tender trees
       and as the trees grow my love will grow.
traverse Maenalus with the forest-spirit women
            hunt wild boars
set the hounds on in any kind of cold
in virgin forests
            I can see myself now, shooting
Cretan arrows from a Parthian bow  
                                                echoing woods…

 Who am I kidding?  As if there were some cure
for this madness, as if human ills
                               could teach that God mercy.

Forget the wood-nymphs, forget poetry too,
woods dissolve, our suffering can’t change Him,
not even if we crouched all winter through storms,
drank ice-slush from the Hebrus, herded flocks
in Ethiopia, the sun high in Cancer,
bark parched on high elms, dying in heat

 Love conquers all, we too should yield to Love.”
That will be enough, Goddesses,
        for your poet to have sung
as he sits weaving a small basket
out of slender hibiscus.
make it count with Gallus,
Gallus, whose love grows in me hourly,
like an alder shooting up green in early spring.

 We can end now.
            Shade is bad for the voice
shade’s bad for the juniper,
      shade hurts the crops.

 Go home, little goats, you’re stuffed
and the Evening Star is out.
                                             Go, little goats.

©2014 Stanley Lombardo, translation
Stanley Lombardo retires in May, 2014, from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, where he is Professor of Classics. His translations include Homer’s Iliad (recipient of the Byron Caldwell Book Award) and Odyssey, Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogeny (recipient of a National Translation Center Award), and Poems and Fragments of Sappho. He is known for performance as well as translation and has given dramatic readings from his translations of the Iliad and Odyssey on campuses throughout the United States, at the Smithsonian Institution and the Chicago Poetry Center, and on National Public Radio and C-SPAN. Recordings of the Iliad and Odyssey are available from Parmenides Publishing. He is also a Zen Master, and the guiding teacher of Zen Centers in Arkansas and Indiana. He is editor and co-editor of three of Zen Master Seung Sahn’s books (Bone of Space, Only Don't Know, and Ten Gates).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Arts Inform/Multiply Texts: 2 Books, by Xánath Caraza & Susan Gardner

Two of my friends have recently published books that create intertextual dialogues between visual sign systems and language.

Xánath Caraza’s Noche de colibries (Hummingbird Nights) has fourteen color illustrations to interplay with the Spanish and English verse. The two languages are eerie echoes that do not quite repeat each other exactly, but instead create overtones of each other. “Nocturno” ends “Los recuerdos se borran/Con la luz cagadora” and “Memories fade/with blinding light.” The recursive, continuous motion of noches/night emerges from the Spanish, while the English is more final. The image, a saguaro cactus and other foliage profiled in pink sunset, makes both more vivid. The painting, by Thomas Weso, is entitled “Superstition Mountain,” which adds further overtones to the complete experience. The title poem refers to the cover painting by Heriberto Luna, “The Galactic Tree of Life,” and it begins, “Hummingbirds take flight to/ Curled branches/Filigree in amber as fruit is born” and “Vuelan los colibries sobre/Las ensortijadas ramas/Filigrana de ámbares como frutos nacem.” In both of these, the “filigree in amber”/”filigrana de ámbares” has more equivalence, the languages merging. In both, the hummingbirds turning into fruits is a stunning image, illuminating the visual image. Caraza’s previous chapbook Corazón Pintado (TL Press 2012) showcases her aesthetic further, as well as Conjuro (Mammoth 2012). Noche de Colibries, a 62-page book from Pandora lobo estepario Productions Press, is an important addition to her growing works. Caraza has insights into how translation from one image to another is a continuous act of creation, just like moving from one language to another. Translator Stephen Holland-Weme elevates the lyric quality of the English.

Susan Gardner’s Inhabit the Felt World reflects her arts background—she is a  professional artist. She understands the implicit images within language. Colors blare from her verse, like “skin blood burnished” (“Desiderata”), “motionless pewter sky” (“Snowy Day”), and “verdigris-bronze head on the wall” (“Garden Bench”). Another stanza from “Garden Bench” shows her ability to make time’s subtle motion visible to the reader:

Each rainy summer night it sinks another iota toward its ancestral home

     amidst the bedrock

     of the river’s underground channel

     tipping imperceptibly

     aslant in the slippery loam.

She also understands how language creates its own hues, as in the last stanza of “Garden Bench”:

found again,

foundered in the torrent

found sheltered

the reader of stone in the rain.

Here, repetition of “found” creates its own harmonies, resonating within script. One of her most astounding poems is a love poem, “That Day,” which begins:

Knock your elbow against the edge of the door,
the funny bone sends a thrill of shock

right to your brain.

On this hot morning

our eyes knock. . . .

Balance, perspective, foreground and background—all of these appear in the work. Gardner’s beautifully produced book informs the deep structures of geography. She writes about the bedrock, the “Antediluvian fossils,” and the continuous motion of the natural surroundings. The poet is aware of each passing moment, and she is able to capture the pain of its loss. This tragedy creates painful beauty. To Inhabit the Felt World is available through Small Press Distribution.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Watch for a new book coming from Mammoth Publications in March, 2014--FATE LINES/ DESIRE LINES by Caleb Puckett. Fate Lines/ Desire Lines balances between choice and compulsion, nature and persuasion. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg writes: “Fate Lines/ Desire Lines, by Caleb Puckett, is a superb collection from a poet with an original voice and a daring approach to language. He speaks to all kinds of lines that define our lives, especially storylines about what our lives are and are not. Puckett inhabits the landscape of possibilities, designing his own poetic forms, re-inventing traditional forms, and giving new life to prose poems and free verse. Puckett prompts us to think through those lines we carry and carve across the earth. “ Cover art by Thomas Pecore Weso.

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Caleb Puckett lives with his wife, sons, and dogs in Ottawa, Kansas, where he works as an academic librarian. He has two book-length collections from Otoliths, Tales from the Hinterland and Market Street Exit.  In addition to writing, Puckett serves as editor-in-chief for a library science journal, associate poetry editor for Nimrod International Journal, and editor for the online literary journal Futures Trading (
Pre-order at $12.00 (discount from $15.00 retail price)
Here is a sample poem:


 Lab-articulated Passenger Pigeons grow animate,
learn the lasting code of surrogate birds,
assimilate to survive a new world.
So much furtive futuring
with the wrong eyes
blinking belief
about history’s patent veracity.
What culture remains from this culturing?
Salvation’s negated by the damnation of seeming.
Passenger Pigeons pass clouds in body, dissolve in being. 

FATE LINES /DESIRE LINES © 2014 Caleb Puckett 978-1-939301-86-4 92 pages, 5 ½ by 8 ½ perfect bound.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

NUMERO CINQ LINK to Denise Low article "Optical Structures in The Shrubberies" Ronald Johnson's Cascades"

Thanks to Douglas Glover of Numéro Cinq for posting online my essay “Optical Structures in the Shrubberies: Ronald Johnson’s  Cascades” His introduction begins:
"In the spirit of our Undersung series on the great-but-somewhat-unnoticed poets,Denise Low, former poet laureate of Kansas, pens here a passionate, erudite essay on the late Kansas poet Ronald Johnson, as she says, a second-generation Black Mountain poet, who invented a brilliant “cascade” structure for his poems. I love this essay for its close reading of the text, its technical expertise and for its consciousness of tradition and influence. "
Read the full essay about this Bay Area and Kansas poet who contributed so much to poetics, and also see the great photo of RJ contributed to the article by Robert Glenn Webb.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

100th Birthday of William S. Burroughs Feb. 5, 2014: Comment and Links to Articles & Photographs

Like many Lawrence residents, I met William Burroughs several times, had dinner at his house, attended after-reading receptions, and also casually saw him driving to my neighbors' house--Susan Brosseau's and David Ohle's--or walking to the grocery store known as Dirty Dillons. His books and art were in the background for me, as I was raising kids and attending college (where he was NOT on the reading lists). His writings about alternative consciousness, especially Yage Letters, were the most simpatico, for me. The censorship trial, which broke down a serious barrier to free expression, was a milestone when I was in high school. His cut-up technique influenced the poets I read and my own writing. He was a major literary figure, and I appreciate his contribution to the range of American (and international) writing. He started the public dialogue about gay, lesbian, and transgender experience.

Wayne Propst holds a WSB autographed baseball from his collection.
Most of all, I celebrate the WSB I knew--a man of power who filled a room with his canny presence. I was aware of his consciousness as he scried us all, lowly to famous and all genders. He made a point to engage each guest in conversation, as a true egalitarian Westerner (he may have been from the far eastern edge of the West, but he had the cowboy-taciturn persona). I suspect his motivation also was curiosity. We talked about the koi in his pond, how they wintered over, and the mystery of hibernation. We talked about Native perspectives on the afterlife. I wrote a poem about our conversation about Einstein's brain, a true urban legend with Kansas episodes. He experienced the tragedy of his wife's death as a result of their addiction (they were very drunk)--40 years before I knew him--and he was an Oedipus figure, marked by perpetual sorrow. (James Grauerholz, Barry Miles, and others have described his grief.) Christians who believe in redemption might forgive him. I doubt he ever forgave himself, and he certainly never forgot.
Of the beat writers I've known, Burroughs was the most Buddhist. He did not proclaim this like Allen Ginsberg, but he set aside his ego to face experience with beginner's-mind, at least when I was around him. He was no angel, nor was he a devil. Today I appreciate memory of his continuous inquiry, his daily engagement with art and/or words, his refusal to fit into "beat" or any category. I remember his heart-felt, courteous actions when I met him. Wayne Propst, one of his close friends, has shared many more stories about him, and I owe a debt to Wayne for this, and also Tom King. James Grauerholz, Jim McCrary, David Ohle, Patricia Elliott Marvin--these and many other people have shared their thoughts in some of the links below.

BBC-America Oral History--with Barry Miles, Ira Silverberg, Jonah Raskin, Roger Shimomura, and Denise Low
Radio feature script and audio, NPR--with James Grauerholz, Jim McCrary, Marty Olson, others
Local Lawrence Journal World includes good interviews with James Grauerholz, Wayne Propst, Jim McCrary, others plus links to art shows, etc.
London show of Wm. S. Burroughs' photography "Taking Shots"
Paris photographs, 1959, from Life magazine
Lawrence Arts Center WSB art exhibit with links to videos, etc and catalogue purchase link.
"Beats in Kansas" Burroughs page with links, curated by George Laughed
David L. Ulin article and review of Barry Miles's biography,0,7917033.story#axzz2sYVxecd1