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College…and the rest of the story.
We are our contemporaries

    Conversations close to home, from recent authors, or those still writing.

Astrid Ivask     Dennis Holt     Mitch Cohen     First Person Intense     Paul Portugés     Jorge de Sena     Sasha Newborn    

Astrid Ivask (d. 2013) was a Latvian poet. At the Fallow's Edge (referring to the great sweep of the Russian steppes across Asia), is a bilingual book, translated by Inara Cedrins.

For My Godmother
At times this light comes to me again
and asks: who are you and why?
And I answer, sometimes in childhood
on my godmother’s farm in the evening
after strawberries and cream we watched
shadow plays, which always ended
in one and the same place—
before the Great Wolf put
to Kasper the question: who are you
and why?
More next time, we were told,
but another evening it started from the beginning
and stopped just there,
where the Great Wolf had almost
grabbed Kasper in his teeth, but not quite.
Candle blown out, we drowsed
in the low board room above the stables,
with the scent of hay, window down to the floor
and the moon throwing shadows on the ceiling.

Dennis Holt, (pen name Hayashi) poet and linguist now living at Boulder Creek near Santa Cruz, investigates the tanka and double tanka format for glimpses of nature, quick perceptions, in Tanka Waka Uta.

from Tanka Waka Uta

I walk home clutching
three giant honey-mushrooms
nobody knows them
no one sees them in the light
along the midnight highway

four teal ducks & one
so brown she’s almost hidden
by the muddy creek —
that yellowish translucence
that may persist for a week

(double tanka)

I haven’t grown tired
of being in this long green grass
between the levee
& the river, right where the
tall reeds in the wind begin

a grove of many
small willows gives me shade &
company as I
await understanding &
ready myself to mark it

Mitch Cohen moved to West Berlin in the early 1980s. The Berlin Wall was a 30-year monument of distrust from the Iron Curtain days. As an American, he was free to move, live, and collect stories, photos, poems from both sides, to make the anthology that helped break down that Wall, Berlin: The Divided City. Here is a poem from Uwe Kolbe, one of the participants:

I Was Raised in the Name of a Weltanschauung
  Ich bin erzogen im Namen einer Weltanschauung

With closed eyes I remained a believer
  Mit geschlossenen Augen blieb ich gläubig
I knew no other philosophy than the ru-
  Ich kannte keine andere Filoso e denn die herr-
ling one I never thought that so many rul-
  Schende ich dachte nie daß es so viele herr-
ing philosophies existed didn’t understand this war.
  Schende Filoso en gibt verstand diesen Krieg nicht.
Now I see the number of the heads:
  Jetzt seh ich die Zahl der Köpfe:
That war unavoidable play likewise
  Daß Krieg unvermeidlich spiele ebenfalls
Paper tiger Sand lion Droplet tank smile
  Papiertiger Sandlöwe Tropfenpanzer lächle
Gun-bore black and blood hound sweet I greet
  Mündungsschwarz und bluthundsüß ich grüße
The World Peace Conference, any at all; my parents
  Den Weltfriedenskongreß, irgendeinen, meine Eltern
The pennant with Lenin’s picture on Venus
  Den Wimpel mit Lenins bild auf der Venus
The dust from which my Cosmos formed.
  Den Staub aus dem mein Kosmos geformt.
I see no chance to rescue my head
  Ich sehe keine Chance den Kopf zu retten
From the war for peace from the war
  Aus dem Krieg um den Frieden aus dem Krieg
Between man and woman from that of the intestinal wall
  Zwischen Mann und Frau aus dem der Darmwand
And the blood with remnants of food from the osmotic
  Und des Bluts mit Speiseresten aus dem osmotischen
World War from the world-political pushbutton war.
  Weltkrieg dem weltpolitischen Knopfdruckkrieg.
Away from the chessboard, out of the pincers pulls
  Vom Schachbrett weg aus den Zwickmühlen zieht
Me—only he with the Scythe one of the friends
  Mich nur der mit der Sense einer der Freunde
Who is reliable one of the greatest players
  Auf die Verlaß ist einer der größten Spieler
The feared bank breaker one of the winners.
  Der gefürchteten Banksprenger einer der Gewinn

First Person Intense, ed. Sasha Newborn, is an anthology of a variety of first-person narratives, including Charles Bukowski, Fielding Dawson, David Ossman, Richard Peabody, Jr., Hugh Fox, Richard Kostelanetz, others. The ability to speak authentically in print validates the writing.
First Person Intense

(this excerpt from Women by Charles Bukowski

We came in low over Kansas City, the pilot said the temperature was 20 degrees, and there I was in my thin California sports coat and shirt, lightweight pants, summer stockings, and holes in my shoes. As we landed and taxied toward the ramp everybody was reaching for overcoats, gloves, hats, mufflers. I let them all get off and then climbed down the portable stairway. There was Frenchy leaning against a building and waiting. Frenchy taught drama and collected books, mostly mine. “Welcome to Kansas Shitty, Chinaski!” he said cheerfully and handed me a bottle of tequila. I took a good gulp and followed him into the parking lot. I had no baggage, just a portfolio of poems. The car was warm and pleasant and we passed the bottle.
  The roadways were frozen over with ice.
  “Not everybody can drive on this fucking kind of ice,” said Frenchy. “You got to know what you’re doing.”
  I opened the portfolio and began reading Frenchy a love poem Lydia had handed me at the airport:
  “…your purple cock curved like a…”
  “…when I squeeze your pimples, bullets of pus like sperm…”
  “Oh SHIT!” hollered Frenchy. The car went into a spin. Frenchy worked at the steering wheel.
  “Frenchy,” I said, lifting the tequila bottle and taking a hit, “we’re not going to make it.”

Aztec Birth, Paul Portugés, with notes by Peter Whigam. Bilingual Nahuatl/English. Poems on the rituals of birthing in Aztec culture. Reprint of the oversize Inklings series volume.

Aztec Birth

The blue-eyed gypsy spoke

the pregnant one
  who offers
  her jaguar grace
  vlike birds into air
“I’ve tasted your hot seed
  & the soft light
of the lord of flight
  entered me
  like a dream of loins

ah your milky groans
  dark to dawn steeped
into our waving hips
  until we unfolded
  as drunken Velvet tithonias

the cold high plains swell
  with fields of bulbous iris
their bearded fire
  soon will sway
  in a flower-laden wind

my pointed breasts grow heavy
  since we sowed
  the seeds of time
me worshipping the future
  even the legs of the sun

may we bring this gentle seed
  into toltec blood
& may the four corners
  bless our breath
  with a flowering spring”


Sobre Esta Praia/Over This Shore, Eight Meditations on the Coast of the Pacific, Jorge de Sena, translated by Jonathan Griffin. Bilingual Portuguese/English. Reprint of the oversize Inklings series volume.

Sobre Esta Praia

Over this shore I lean.
                I know shores:
Have lain on them, surveyed them, loved on them
with at least my eyes the bodies laid
in the troughs of the sand or amid the stones
nude showing themselves or yielding themselves or set on
overthrowing me like the sun‘s
fire, javelins that clash and flare
on flashing blades of roseate and hard steel.
The Atlantic waves used to break placid
and the roar of them from time to time a storm
which coiled the waters into black shadows
would hear me speaking and conversing no
more than the gestures of touching and holding
in lukewarm memory the undulant curves
of flanks and torsos, dark tufts of hair,
eyes half closed, a mouth set ajar,
legs and arms tapering into toes and fingers.
Here is a different ocean.
                A different time.
I can see two forms on the silent shore
set close against the scalloped abrupt cliff
which allots to them merely some gaps of sand:
two bodies side by side like cold swords.
Should I go down and pass recesses where
more nude bodies will be sheltering,
still it‘s a different ocean, a different time in a different
world otherwise organized into people.
Ambiguous bodies, vacillating sexes,
a smell of corpse, which onto love not made
converges from depression and an itch
to kill or be dead without joy or grief.
Here just from eyeing each other a frozen panic
paints with pallor any face that may smile
or body that would move to the planned gesture.
And not even from old, from other seas,
dare stop here any footloose images
that might at one time have been cheerfulness.
If gods were born here nothing‘s left of them
but mortal light of bodies like machines of
sex self-hating in whatever pleasure
and, worse, with hate at seeing itself desired.

27th of September, 1972

The Basement; Martian Testament; Eight 2 Two, (two novels and poetry) by Sasha Newborn

The Basement: A Novel of the Sixties was written about a confusing return to the USA after a life-changing Peace Corps experience (half the book, with sketches) are memories of that time). Re-entering a changed America: Kennedy had been assassinated, Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War sentiment gave youth on a college campus a sense that something could be done—but what? A year in a rent-free basement offered a revealing "time-out" before plunging headlong into The Sixties. But that's another story…

Cold wet snow flakes cling to my beard — the sting in my cheeks throws me back four years, have I been that long away from winter? Frost forms on my mustache where I breathe — the hairs are brittle; this is an older self I keep slipping into and I can’t, while my ears ache, remember Africa.
I was not the hero triumphantly returning. I felt, with the darkness, the rise inside me of the horny beast, and I walked along the sidewalk evenly as if on the melting ice of a great river, as if by that smooth mechanical motion I could calm and hide the beast yet one more night, until I was home and could feed it dreams. Home was a basement on Iowa Avenue. Crossing to the house I would glance up at her window, the second-storey window midway up on the left, where perhaps her light would be on. Then I’d go around to the back to the storm cellar doors set at a slant to the ground, the old wood doors sagging, not a perfect fit anymore, they hadn’t joined at the clasp in years. I’d swing the right one up and step down wooden steps, pulling the door after me. I was in a storage area with shelves and piles of cans and a metal sink and a door that said MARTIANS KEEP OUT...

The Martian Testament is set in the (presumably) near future, most of the action on Mars, years after the US, France, China, others have settlements, with outlaw gangs, and a newcomer aiming to rule the entire planet. A side story emerges with discovery of a journal from the first "Martian," who had arranged to maroon himself to prove that the planet could sustain life; he had found fragments and more from the planet between Mars and Jupiter that became the Asteroid Belt, with tantalizing clues.

Lord, I been on this ship too long.
Can you hear me sing this song?
Captain says, “Find that man,
And shoot him, shoot him if you can.”

Got the night watch every night,
When everyone’s out of sight.
I thought I heard the ghost
Of a buddy, an old pal I lost.

No telling what is what,
Is it is or is it not.
Well, I’ll go on singing this song
Until I know that I was wrong.

Good old Billy. At last I have paper to write on, so I won’t be forced to deface Weston’s notebook, yes, the one he kept in those first years (see Appendix). But, Bob, if you think that’s something, there’s a hell of a lot more. When you get a handle on this story, it’ll be worth every penny you paid for it. But a travelog it ain’t. Never mind the craziness; without it, there’d be no story.…

Eight 2 Two is a short book of 100 short poems, and a puzzle.

Foreword: Eight 2 Two, poems from the Seventies and onward, is a compilation of short poems by a declared “nonpoet.” The title, likewise, demonstrates a different way of looking at something familiar. In case you don’t figure it out, the explanation is at the end of the book. My personal opinion on poetry is that it is more important for the poet to write than it is for the reader to read. You be the judge.


How to read

          there’s no
stopping only the flow there’s
now & that must be enough
there’s now
      & there’s memories
you are the lense you are the
echo chamber the seashell
through whose chambers all sounds
come together like waves

Shakespeare       AmerExit

AmLit-to Civil War     AmLit-Aftermath

BritLit     World Lit     Gender

Women       Humanism

Language/Translation       Ancients

Writing       Poetry       Youth

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