Lyn Lifshin has published over 130 books and chapbooks including 3 from Black Sparrow Press: Cold Comfort, Before It’s Light and Another Woman Who Looks Like Me. Before Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle, Lifshin published her prize winning book about the short lived beautiful race horse Ruffian, The Licorice Daughter: My Year With Ruffian and Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness. Recent books include Ballroom, All the Poets Who Have Touched Me, Living and Dead. All True, Especially The Lies, Light At the End: The Jesus Poems, Katrina, Mirrors, Persphone, Lost In The Fog, Knife Edge & Absinthe: The Tango Poems . NYQ books published A Girl Goes into The Woods. Also just out: For the Roses poems after Joni Mitchell and Hitchcock Hotel from Danse Macabre. Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle. And Tangled as the Alphabet,– The Istanbul Poems from NightBallet Press Just released as well Malala, the dvd of Lyn Lifshin: Not Made of Glass. The Marilyn Poems was just released from Rubber Boots Press. An update to her Gale Research Autobiography is out: Lips, Blues, Blue Lace: On The Outside. Also just out is a dvd of the documentary film about her: Lyn Lifshin: Not Made Of Glass. Just out: Femme Eterna and Moving Through Stained Glass: the Maple Poems. Forthcoming: Degas Little Dancer and Winter Poems from Kind of a Hurricane Press, Paintings and Poems, from Tangerine press (just out) and The Silk Road from Night Ballet, alivelikealoadedgun from Transcendent Zero Press Just Out and forthcoming Refugees http://www.lynlifshin.com/
- g emil reutter
GER: What brought you to poetry and who were your inspirations?
LL: As a child I was read to a lot and I remember one of my favorite books was the collection of poetry, NOW WE ARE SIX, with its poetry of Tattoo the Cat, Alexander the beetle his grandmother let out, and Anne, Anne playing in the willows. I still have that book. When I was about 3, driving from Barre, VT to Middlebury, VT I am told I said “it looks like the trees are dancing.” My mother, who named me Rosalyn Diane, a name she thought would be appropriate for an actress, something I think she always wanted to be herself, sighed, “well then maybe she will be a poet.”
In elementary school, because I read and wrote well, I skipped from first to third grade. There, I had an amazing teacher, Mrs. Flag. Each morning she brought in something—a branch of apple blossoms, colored stones, prints of famous paintings and asked us to write about them. I still have those blue books with hand written poems about apple blossoms, water fowl, snow in April. One day I copied a poem of Blake’s and told my mother I had written it. Since Middlebury was a small town it wasn’t unusual that my mother ran into my teacher and told her what an inspiration she’d been—how I had written a poem with words in it she didn’t even know I knew. By Monday I had to write my poem with those particular words in them: rill, descending, nigh.
In college I never felt I could write enough so didn’t take any writing courses. But I did write a few poems over summer. Robert Frost, who spent the summer in Ripton, VT, often wandered around Middlebury in baggy green pants carrying a bag of strawberries. Like my father, he was a taciturn, quiet man and would only let my father, who worked in my uncle’s department store, wait on him. My father one time showed him one of my poems and Frost wrote on it. “wonderful images—bring me some more poems.” By the time I had any more poems, Frost was dead. In my first year of college I fell in love with Federico Garcia Lorca and in graduate school, Dylan Thomas. And later Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin.
GER: You never attended a workshop yet you have taught numerous workshops. What value do you place in workshops?
LL: For so many writers who start writing on their own, maybe a workshop is a great place to try out poems and stories, meet other writers, start a magazine. At times I think these workshops become so insulated they only publish their own poems but I suppose there are good things coming out of them. When I started writing, I wouldn’t have any idea of where to even look for a writing workshop.
GER: Do you use a particular formula in creating your poems?
LL: Not really. I did an article for Writers Digest about the many way I’ve started poems and there are so many. I like assignments: people looking for poems on a certain subject. That often triggers a who series of poems on that subject. A forthcoming book, THE SILK ROAD came from a request for poems about silk and spices. Requests for poems on certain subjects often turn into whole books: poems about Jesus, (JESUS ALIVE AND IN THE FLESH) (poems about dick for a day, mother and daughter poems, (TANGLED VINES) and (THE DAUGHTER I DON’T HAVE.) Marilyn Monroe (MARILYN MONROE) political poems (BLUE TATTOO), Barbie poems (BARBIE), Malala (MALALA). So often when I am asked for a poem on a subject it seems I couldn’t stop and wrote not one or two poems but a series. FOR THE ROSES came from a request for poems about Joni Mitchell. Sadly the week the book was released, the editor-publisher became sick and died –I had received only about ten copies of the book and no one could find the others or discover the key to printing more copies—so the few that are out are truly collectors’ copies. ) I paid to have a group reprinted but sadly the book didn’t get the attention it should had though I think it is still on Amazon and I have a few copies; an Obama file came from two requests for two books on Obama that came out just around his election. I never submitted that file anywhere else.
GER: Tell us about your latest release, Little Dancer–The Degas Poems.
LL: I’d always loved ballet- in Middlebury there was not much of a chance to take classes. For a year or two a lovely, exotic dancer from Paris, Mrs. Berge—later we learned she was Mrs. Berger who had come to escape the Holocaust. I was a chubby 8 year old but I loved the classes and she gave me a tiara and costume she wore in the Metropolitan Opera that I still have and cherish. Though I still take ballet barre, now my passion is ballroom and Argentine tango. The original statue of the little dance is in the National Gallery in Washington DC and I wrote the poems after seeing a play based on Degas and the little dancer.
GER: In 2014 Femme Eterna was released followed by #AliveLikeALoadedGun in 2016. Could you share with us your thoughts on these books?
LL: Classical images and themes haven’t been a mainstay of my work. But an artist wanted to collaborate on a project for THE WOMEN’S MUSEUM. She had an idea of showing women thru the ages and how they each had some area of power. We planned to begin with the earliest well known women and work up to the present. We each picked out a number of women in myth and history and she began working on paintings and I worked on poems. I started with Enheduanna because I knew nothing about her. It was fun. I loved the fact that she was not only the first woman who signed her name to what she had written but she was also a poet. I loved reading about the Euphrates, imagining her shiny dark lips as she wrote on her lapis lazuli tablet. I was impressed, imagining the patience and time it must have taken to write with a stylus and in cuneiform. When I was in Turkey, I saw a stylus of similar cuneiforms and was even more amazed at Enheduanna’s accomplishments. It was easy to identify with Scheherazade, another story teller, who imagination kept her alive. I learned so much about Nefertiti’s life, her power, her heart breaks. It was very different for me to focus on the myths and history of these special women. The project my artist friend and I were working on never happened. More recently we talked about resurrecting a project that would combine our poetic and artistic works.
ALIVELIKEALOADEDGUN came together in a rather traditional way. The editor-producer wrote me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a book. I sent him several, (many—I probably drowned him in files) of new poems and he made the selection.
GER: Over 135 of your books have been published and after decades of writing you remain prolific. To what do you attribute the continued flow of creativity?
LL: I’m really not sure. In the cabinet over my desk are about 59 hand written notebooks—spiral notebooks with about 70 pages each of poems so if I never write another poem, I will have more than enough to type up for years!. I am still writing. Two of my poems that I felt were strong were just accepted by a magazine that felt they were some of the strongest I’ve written.
For a while I was fascinated with horse racing and three of my strongest books came from that subject: THE LICORICE DAUGHTER: A YEAR WITH RUFFIAN; BARBARO: UNBROKEN; SECRETARIAT:THE RED FREAK, THE MIRACLE. Before that, many of the poems were family poems, poems about people. My three Black sparrow books have many poems about family: COLD COMFORT, BEFORE IT’S LIGHT and ANOTHER WOMAN WHO LOOKS LIKE ME. And I did a series of books about places: AUDDLEY END, THE OLD HOUSE ON THE CROTON, SHAKER HOUSE POEMS, PLYMOUTH WOMEN, THE OLD HOUSES, PLYMOUTH. I’ve also done many nature themed books NUTLEY POND and MOVING THRU STAINED GLASS—THE MAPLE POEMS.
GER: How has the poetry scene changed since you first came on the scene?
LL: In so many way. The many advanced degrees in poetry at many schools has created little enclaves or cliques of poets. Submission has changed with Submittable being the main way of sending poems. In early anthologies RISING TIDES and PSYCHE:THE POETRIC FEMININE –anthologies that go from Emily Dickinson to the present include my work while there are only about 5 other contemporary poets. But I’ve never won a Push Cart. Or had a poem on Garrison Keillor’s daily poem program.
GER: So I hear you like to tango. Do you find any similarities between the art of the dance and the art of words?
LL: I suppose there are—tango never came as easily as poetry but I’ve loved it as much. On my web site there is a tango dance I’ve done after only half a year of classes. But I wish I did more. I do have a book of tango poems; (all written before I did any tango dancing) KNIFE EDGE & ABSINTH:THE TANGO POEMS. And BALLROOM, another of my favorites, is also from the press where the editor died—I do have some copies and I hope Amazon does too. It all is rather ephemeral isn’t it? I do have a movie LYN LIFSHIN: NOT MADE OF GLASS and I used to tape all my poems only to realize my tape recorder wasn’t very good. But there are some readings of poems on my web site http://www.lynlifshin.com and a reading and interview at the Library of Congress and is on my web site.
To learn more about Lynn Lifshin please visit her at: http://www.lynlifshin.com/
May 20th @ 2 p.m.
Diane Sahms-Guarnieri and g emil reutter
Open Mic to Follow – Bring your poems to share in the open
401 Mill Street
Bristol, PA 19007
Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, Poetry Editor at North of Oxford is a native Philadelphian. She is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Images of Being (Stone Garden Publishing, 2011), Lights Battered Edge (Anaphora Literary Press 2015) and Night Sweat (Red Dashboard Press, 2016). Awarded a grant in poetry from the AEV Foundation in 2013, she was named the winner of the Working People’s Poetry Competition- 2015. She has served as Poet in Residence at Ryerss Museum and Library and as Poetry Editor of The Fox Chase Review. More about Diane can be found at http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/ & https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He is a Contributing Editor at North of Oxford. Born in Bristol, raised in Levittown he has lived most of his adult life in Philadelphia. Nine collections of his poetry and fiction have been published. He published The Fox Chase Review (2008-2015). He can be found at https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
Review by g emil reutter
It is spring and baseball is spinning toward the dog days of summer and the crisp air of champions made in the autumn air. There are the storied collapses of teams, say the ’64 Phillies or the famous Mitch Williams pitch in ’93 and of course the curse of the Bambino in Boston and the infamous error by Bill Buckner in ’86. Each franchise has some of these moments, some better known than the others. In Pittsburgh it is simply known as The Slide.
Richard and Stephen Peterson bring us a historic account of the Pittsburgh Pirates after they dominated the late ‘70’s with superstars and “We are Family”. The team collapsed after a dominating presence in baseball just as the steel industry collapsed in Pittsburgh and hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. The team played as if trapped in the flues of a rusted out open hearth. The Peterson’s coordinate the despair of a collapsing economy with the collapse of a baseball team losing their economic base. Change of course comes not only in the economy of Pittsburgh but for the Pirates. Fans lust for the champions of the ‘70s stay away from the ballpark until the renaissance of the team catches up with the city. So it is that Bonds, Bonilla, VanSlyke, Drabek and Bream under the command of manager Jim Leyland bring hope back to the ball park in the early ‘90s although the fan base is reluctant after years of losing teams to embrace them. Yet, they cannot jump the hump, cannot get to the biggest show in baseball, the World Series.
As with other storied franchises, The Slide, burns eternal in Pittsburgh. With one out to go in the playoffs, one out away from the World Series, the Pirates blew it. Ex Pirate Bream ran to home plate as an Atlanta Brave, slid in for the winning run stealing the right of passage, the hopes and dreams of a city on the rebound as the Pirates once again went home and Atlanta to the series. The Slide not only represented yet another loss in the playoffs but a slide of great magnitude that lasted for 20 years as the Pirates dwelled in the muck of the basement of Major League Baseball. In 2011 the slide stopped as the Pirates returned to championship form.
The Peterson’s presentation is simply outstanding as the book reads like a play by play announcer and contains all the drama that is baseball and of course all the drama that are the players. They are hard on Barry Bonds, not so much on Bobby Bonilla. The friction in the clubhouse during those ‘90s playoff years and the failure of Pittsburgh ownership to come off the money for Bonds and Bonilla resonate through the turmoil of the clubhouse until unity comes when they believe they are heading to the World Series only to lose it to The Slide.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Slide-Leyland-Star-Crossed-Pittsburgh-Pirates/dp/0822964449
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter
.Review by g emil reutter
Orlando Bentancor brings us The Matter of Empire- Metaphysics and Mining in Colonial Peru at a time when the world is once again ignoring history, a history Bentancor brings to life in this excellent book on the conquest of the America’s by Spain. The philosophy of Francisco de Victoria rooted in Aristotelianism and Thomism. It is to Victoria that the Spanish crown turned to justify the conquest of the America’s and the treatment of the “Amerindians”. Victoria a founder of the School of Salamanca developed the philosophy of just war, freedom of commerce and the seas rooted in the belief of globalization and natural subordination. This is relevant in today’s world as the nations of the earth engage in globalization today on scale that Victoria who wrote in the 1500’s could only imagine.
Bentancor writes in great detail the emerging philosophy of Victoria that justified the rights of Spain to mine for gold and silver in South America in spite of any indigenous opposition. Victoria used Aristotle’s natural law, or natural subordination that people are born to lead or born to serve as the justification in the use of indigenous peoples to be forced to work in the mines as a right of Spain to free commerce. It was the right of Spain to impose its religion on the indigenous people, to mine their land and if resisted to conquer their territory in just war as a right of a superior people to impose their will on inferiors if resisted or attacked. Victoria rooted his theories in the western thought developed by Aristotelianism and Thomism. He used the foundation of Scholasticism and corrupted the teachings and philosophy of Thomas Aquinas as the basis for the brutal slaughter and enslavement of indigenous peoples during the Spanish conquest and globalization.
Natural subordination led to the great violence of the last millennium and millions of lost lives. Not only used by western culture but cultures around the globe to justify war, violence, slavery and man’s inhumanity to man no matter what mask it wears. In the beginning of this new millennium we continue to see the imposition of religious intolerance and suppression of people who are not in agreement with those who desire to impose their will on them, the forced global economy on the peoples of the world.
You can find the book here: https://www.upress.pitt.edu/BookDetails.aspx?bookId=36661
From Nathalie F. Anderson
The Real Thing
I first met Daniel Hoffman on the page. As a grad student down south, immured in my carrel, I too often found myself walled in by literary criticism that seemed written to be musty, and literary theory that seemed written to be cryptic. But Dan’s books weren’t like that: Barbarous Knowledge and Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe told their urgent stories complicatedly, grippingly. This was literary history that investigated, literary biography that speculated, literary criticism that illuminated, and all of it — above all — engaging. Although I was reading these books for their content, of course, I appreciated too the personality of the author that was everywhere evident in their pages: his intelligence, his perceptiveness, his sympathetic humanity, his wit. I remember pausing in my headlong rush through Poe to think, “This is work worth doing. This is the real thing.”
It’s significant, then, that when I consider Dan’s own poetry, I think most focally of a passage from the start of Brotherly Love:
Is it real, this life
That you are living, is it
Whether through history or through personal recollection, Dan’s work often offers us narratives of the “real,” but complicated by that characteristic challenge. What version of events can claim to be true? What currents flow intermingling through what we take to be a simple stream of happenstance or consciousness? What heights transcend or depths intensify the everyday unattended moment? If, as T.S. Eliot puts it, “human kind / cannot bear very much reality,” what is it that keeps us — in Wallace Stevens’ phrase — “coming back and coming back / To the real”? And what distinguishes the “real” from the “Real”? Dan’s poetry appreciates always the materiality of the world we live in, but pushes us towards the larger questions, the ethical questions, the philosophical questions.
Because I knew Dan before I knew him, so to speak, meeting him in the flesh was all the more daunting, like opening the door to a one-on-one Ph.D. oral exam — all that wit, all that erudition, all that rich experience of the world of letters, all that brilliantly incisive discernment trained on you. I’ve never left a conversation with him without feeling that my eyes have been opened to some fresh insight or to some convolution of thought or to some revealing circumstance. Dan lives the intellectual life so fully that it’s difficult not to feel humbled in his company, yet he shares that life so comprehensively and so generously that you leave him energized, grateful for all he offers.
But when I say “he” — as anyone who knows Dan will understand — I really mean “they”: Daniel Hoffman and Elizabeth McFarland went everywhere together, and shared a like intelligence, a similar aesthetic, a honed ethical awareness, that trenchant wit. After her death, which shocked us all, I was moved and complimented when Dan asked me to present her work with him in readings at Swarthmore College and at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. My favorite line of hers is still “She always wanted her kisses back,” because to want something back implies a demand not only for goods returned, but also for reciprocity: if she’s not kissed back, she’ll take back those kisses! That she and Dan found that reciprocity, that mutuality, was obvious to all who saw them together. It’s hard to imagine companions more superbly matched.
Among my favorites of Dan’s poem’s, then — despite his widely recognized allegiance to poetic tradition — is “Words,” where (he says) he’s giving up rhythm and rhyme for the “gutreaction poem / of the soul’s discovering,” “poems that are themselves the / sound of your / slip rustling and the / scent that laces / the air you wear” — poems that we know speak of and to his love. “Goodby, words,” he concludes; “They / do become you,” and that knowing wink — the words that flatter the wearer, the words that create what they describe, the words that home in on their source and reason, the words that know just what they love and live for — explain the speaker’s sudden reticence, his decision to let the said be said: “I’ve / no more to say.” Yes, this truly is the real real thing.
*Reprinted from Per Contra with permission of Nathalie Anderson