The poetry of Mario dell’Arco is happily finding fertile ground in today’s plethora of wonderful literary magazines, many of which offer precious space to words in translation. Los Angeles Review has just published three more of my translations: “Who More than Me?”, “Solo” and “Fear of Solitude.” “Solo” is one of dell’Arco’s “longer” poems, in the sense that it is more than ten lines long. The poem is about his deceased wife, and it’s a companion piece to another longish poem on the same theme, “A Marble Slab” (“Una lastra de marmo”). “Who More than Me?” offers a more whimsical view of life, rather like a Marc Chagall painting.
Who more than me?
Who more than me? Here on my back in the grass,
surrounded by poppies and snapdragons,
I’m the lord of all creation.
The sky is too limpid, though:
I fish a smoke from the pack
and blow a cloud above my head
so tomorrow it rains, and I can lie in bed.
Day Lasts Forever: Selected Poems of Mario dell’Arco is slated for release from World Poetry Books in 2024.
My poem “Technicolor Coronation Day” is up as part of Rattle‘s ‘Poets Respond’ series. The poem is a villanelle inspired by the coronation ceremony of King Charles, a ceremony which I only viewed vicariously through Twitter and the TV news. As I wrote in my note to the poem, I find such things as kings and popes anachronistic, and have only the most superficial curiosity about those who claim divine right. In any case, it was the right occasion for a touch of lighthearted poetry, though all those hidden skeltons do make quite the clatter from behind the curtain. I read the poem on Rattlecast 194, if you’d like to hear it (if you do, please stay for the main guest, Irish poet Frank Dullaghan.)
My translation of Mario dell’Arco’s poem “Epigrams” is up at Asses of Parnassus, the journal for all things epigrammatical. The poem is untitled in dell’Arco’s version, as it is part of a sequence of translations from the Roman poet Martial.
Are my epigrams any good? Who
knows? When I asked you, dear friend,
you rummaged through them
page by page, wrinkling up
your nose, shaking your head
‘no’. Now I know: they’re good.
Below is the Romanesco original, and Martial VI, 60 for those with Latin:
So’ brutti o belli st’epigrammi? Boooh!
Oggi l’ho chiesto a te,
amico svisciolato, e scartabbelli
tra le paggine, e aggricci er naso, e
me fai segno de no.
Ho capito: so’ belli.
(Laudat, amat, cantat nostros mea Roma libellos,
meque sinus omnes, me manus omnis habet.
Ecce rubet quidam, pallet, stupet, oscitat, odit.
Hoc uolo: nunc nobis carmina nostra placent.)
Day Lasts Forever: Selected Poems of Mario dell’Arco will be published by World Poetry Books in 2024.
My poem “Herring Gut” has been published at Minyan Magazine, a journal dedicated to work by Jewish poets. In editor Liz Marlowe‘s words:
The magazine’s name, Minyan, refers to a group of ten adults needed for a worship service in Judaism. Each issue of Minyan will contain the work from ten writers.
The title of the poem refers to the place in Maine where we scattered our mother’s ashes, which was the type of burial she insisted on. Herring Gut is a gorgeous pocket along the Maine coast, and I’m sure it is exactly what she had in mind. If you follow the links, you can see “Herring Gut” is the third poem in a trilogy of poems on this theme. Here are the first few lines:
We held her hand until the ocean took it.
Down where the old insomniac lighthouse
delimits dawn, and Earth’s striated veins
paint igneous swaths of mineral love,
her ashes were decanted to the tides.
Read more at Minyan.
I’m pleased to announce that my micro-chap Love Poem with Pomegranate will be published by Ghost City Press as part of their 8th annual Summer Micro-chap Series! From their website:
Every title released as part of the Summer Series is available as a free PDF download on our website. In addition to downloading the collections of poetry, fiction, and cross-genre work, you also have the option of donating to any of the writers involved, and the best part is that they get to keep 100% of what’s donated to them. Some of our authors have even chosen to forward their donations to various charity organizations (these are noted on their individual micro-chap pages).
The title poem can be read at West Review. It was inspired by a very real pomegranate on our kitchen table.
I have two new sonnets up at the excellent new journal Pulsebeat. The first, “Devil’s Blues”, is an appreciation of Cleveland musician Peter Laughner. Peter was a central figure in the Cleveland underground scene of the 1970s, and was a founding member of both Rocket from the Tombs and Pere Ubu. He died in 1977 from complications related to drugs and alcohol. He was 24. The poem is set on the last night of Peter’s life. He was alone in his bedroom, drinking and recording songs he loved. (So I have understood the scene to be.) The song which took the top of my head off when I first heard it is his version of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues”. I first learned of Peter from Clinton Heylin’s 1994 book From the Velvets to the Voidoids, his history of the evolution of punk music. Peter’s music was very hard to find until 1994’s Take the Guitar Player for a Ride double album (Tim/Kerr). In 2019, Smog Veil unveiled a long-awaited box set of Peter’s recordings, finally giving him his due. I have been listening to Peter’s music since I was in college; this sonnet is my small contribution to his legend.
The other poem, “Mirror Mirror”, is a mirror sonnet. As Borges wrote in his story “Tlön, Uqbar and Orbis Tertius”, there is something monstrous about mirrors. I’ll leave it at that.
Thanks to editor David Stephenson at Pulsebeat for publishing these!
I’m happy to share that my poem “Nana’s Last Hanukkah” has been nominated for Best of the Net by Minyan Magazine. The poem was part of their debut issue in December 2021 along with poems by Julie Weiss, Betsy Mars and Eva Eliav. You can read the full poem here. Many thanks to editor Liz Marlow for the nomination!
I’m happy to share that my poem “Her Vanity” was selected for the Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge for March 2022! The poem was inspired by this painting by Natascha Graham, which made me think about my mother as a young woman and a story she told me umpteen times about the time she met Eddie Fisher, her dream boat. “He could have been your father!” she would say, raising a severe eyebrow at me. (Apparently, genetics wasn’t on her mind.) You can read more poems about my mother in my collection Unburial.
My mother used to sit like this before
her vanity, her shoulders bathed
in blue and pink light, her powdered skin
dredged in a cloud of talc, breathing it in.
[Read more at Rattle]
Yesterday I got word that one of my sonnets has been shortlisted for the Better Than Starbucks Sonnet Contest 2021. I don’t enter many contests, and have only once received an honorable mention – back in 2000 – for another sonnet contest (I write a lot of sonnets). That contest was judged by Alfred Dorn, who created the ‘Dornian’ sonnet with the rhyme scheme ABCABC DD EFGEFG. I’ve written a number of Dornian sonnets, including my seven-sonnet sequence “Homage to the Italian Language” which will be in Still Life with City. The poem was published in Raintown Review last year, which is a print-only journal. As a teaser, here is one of the middle sonnets, in the Dornian style:
Romans adore the expletive ammazza.
It means so many things, like Oh my god
or harsh…Regina taught us to use it
in place of harsher-sounding words or as a
default four-letter word which, intoned loud,
would startle skeletons locked in the closet.
But what was I to do with Abigail—
bipolar, alcoholic—but derail
my train to smoother tracks? I found a place
across the bridge in Queens: Astoria.
The signs in Greek were comforting to me,
murmurs of Mediterranean solace
along the East River; la storia,
I told myself, fingering my new key.
Anyway, the shortlisted sonnet is not a Dornian sonnet! It's actually a (mostly) unrhymed sonnet, another pet form. In January they release the results. Fingers crossed!