Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Land My Father Gave Me

Sonali Samarasinghe's first American publication is a book of poetry that explores the political murder of her husband in Sri Lanka and its aftermath as she begins a new life in exile.

"The eighteen poems in The Land My Father Gave Me are a cry and a song: loss, longing, anger, fear, pride, love, gratitude, eventual steps toward balance, the hope for internal and external peace. To read them is to walk through door within door, hallways of mirrors reflecting self and world. Sonali has brought intellect and political acumen to crafting poems about the most personal experiences, emotions, insights."
-- from the introduction by Katharyn Howd Machan

ISBN 0-9798112-6-0
44 pages with illustrations by the author

from The Land My Father Gave Me


Somber auguries flood through – a portent
The bedroom mirror cracked in two upstairs
The vicar called again to change the date
The withered woman with her empty pails
On her shoulders, leering at my foul fate
As if she knew, the raven on the sill
Brought me dark news, in distorted tongue
Why the old speckled cat, nine years and barren
Grew large with young, to my amaranthine joy
Then as curiously as it began, with blood and tears
It ended, my great expectations foiled
Launched upon a voyage sans a sail
Thirteen wedded nights, and you exhaled

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boiled Potato Blues by Kathleen Kramer

With a musician’s ear for rhythm and a painter’s eye for detail, Kathleen Kramer writes of family, home, and the world of Pennsylvania’s coal mining country. Reaching back three generations, she writes of ordinary people living in extraordinarily difficult times, telling stories that are in turn humorous, tender, tragic, and miraculous.

“Kathleen Kramer has written with such compassion and grace, gratitude and praise, healing and forgiveness that her lyric poems become story songs of reverence, devotion, and prayer — poems both ballad and hymn.”
-- from the introduction by Mary Beth O'Connor

ISBN 0-9798112-4-4
92 pages

from Boiled Potato Blues


He lifts the corner of the curtain, tucks
it up. Even on moonless nights, the triangle
of pale light helps him breathe. Day after day

in the drift mine, the carbide lamp on his cap
casts its pallid circle on the sweating veins
of coal. He breathes high in his chest, hopes

the black dust won’t clog his lungs,
stiffen them like an old leather bellows,
send him, like his father, to the stool beside

the stove, unable to work or walk
to the mailbox. In the night, he wakes, stares
at the bedroom ceiling, looming low

in the feeble light from the turned-back curtain.
That deep grumble—is it thunder? Or the groan
of the mine roof after he’s pulled the timbers,

hurrying to load the last of the exhausted vein,
push the coal car out to the tipple before the roof
falls, seals him in, without even a triangle of light.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Land of Flowers by Irakli Kakabadze

Writing simultaneously in Georgian and English, Irakli Kakabadze travels between activism in the Republic of Georgia and exile in the United States, continually refining his vision of pacifist poetics. With deep roots in the Futurists and the Beats, these bold, funny, and ardent poems dismantle language to shatter expectations and create a new world.

“Kakabadze is rhyme-crazy and it shows. If he doesn’t find a word in English that he needs, he makes one up. If the rules of grammar or punctuation don’t suit his sonic needs, he breaks them. But there’s more going on here than just the urgency of expression bursting out through a second language. Kakabadze is creating cognitive and linguist dissonance to challenge bourgeois reality and ‘destroy the congeniality of the line’ in a rebellion against consumerism.”
-- from the introduction by Bridget Meeds

ISBN 0-9798112-3-6
80 pages (bilingual English/Georgian)

from Land of Flowers


I am a full-time, young worker
and I’m a slave of my mortgage.
Payments are due every month,
and also visits to my aunt.
I need to accumulate property,
a dream of my friend Lilly Daugherty,
and if I follow this step by step process,
I’ll be wealthier than Malcolm X.
That’s what my dear Mama often told me,
when she used to talk and hold me,
“If you are not wealthy,
you can be sure you’ll never be healthy.”

I was told this every day,
and I’m a mortgage slave today.
And then I met this gorgeous girl,
I fell in love, I don’t know when,
I told her that I have a house,
and I always watch my Mickey Mouse,
that I have very, very busy days,
todays, tomorrows, yesterdays.
She doesn’t care about my house,
nor does she like my Mickey Mouse.
She just wants to have my heart,
it’s not important if I have a good credit card.
But I don’t have time to give her my heart,

I need to do too many things.
I want to give her all my heart,
but I don’t know where I should start.
Oh, mommy, mommy, I am a good boy,
but I don’t want to be a mortgage toy.
Hey, Mr. Lincoln, come to the world again
and liberate me from a faceless slavery,
slavery of the mortgage that I owe,
and make me free to love, love, love.

A Jew in El Salvador by Roni Fuller

With A Jew in El Salvador, Roni Fuller continues a journey begun in two previous volumes, God’s Breath and A Reason for the Wind. In three trips to San Salvador, before and after the death of his wife, Fuller explores the landscape of love, faith, and grief to discover his place in the world.

“El Salvador has become a part of my core,” writes Fuller. “Whether I will ever return I do not know at this moment. I do know that the country, its people in general, numerous acquaintances and good friends in particular, the land, the beauty, the mystery, the essence of the place, all will remain with me as long as I live.”

ISBN 0-9798112-4-4
120 pages

from A Jew in EL Salvador


From Suchitoto, we walk down the steep path,
passing houses, greeting people, smiling at children.
Half-way to the river, the houses thin, then stop.
The road, too, stops its cobbled path to become
a trail, still steep, descending through the forest.

Green surrounds us, the path becoming smaller,
the trees everywhere, the vines trailing.
The colors of butterflies punctuate the way:
red, yellow, black, brown, orange, blue, indigo,
and others which I think have no name.

There is a butterfly, which, in repose, becomes an owl’s eye,
and one which is a fountain of iridescent plankton.
Another wears its red in barbells, and another in spots.
Tiger stripes, neon glows, and bright oranges
flit quickly before us, then vanish.

At the river a man with a stick and string wades barefoot
to catch the tiny fish that swim by the shore.
He chats about the river and the lanas that live in it,
stinging algae. The birds fly by: boat-billed flycatcher,
ringed kingfisher, northern jacana.

A spotted sandpiper walks around a rock in the river,
perhaps eating the ants that swarm on it.
There are no dangers lurking, other than the lanas,
no thieves behind the trees. Another man walks by,
carrying his morning’s catch of tiny fish.

The sun bakes through the trees, onto our backs,
as we walk up the trail, the path, up the steep hill,
surrounded by butterflies in the forest,
climbing past the houses, increasing in number,
to the top, leading to Suchitoto.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Candidate Jokola by Irakli Kakabadze

When oil executive Jokola Kistauri suddenly quits the presidential race, the media launches into a feeding frenzy to understand why. In this six-act tragedy of wartime love and politics, suppressed in the Republic of Georgia, Irakli Kakabadze reaches behind the masks of power and success to explore the choices we make as human beings.

“Kakabadze has always been in the forefront of non-violent struggle, but what is most interesting is that he decided to write Candidate Jokola after the Rose Revolution—when he was highly regarded by the Georgian authorities, and had a chance to become one of their favorites. Instead, he wrote a work that sided with the underdog, and because he chose to write a love story between an Abkhaz woman and a Georgian presidential candidate, he risked not only his literary career, but his life.”
-- from the introduction by Zurab Rtveliashvili

ISBN 0-9798112-2-8
96 pages

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rose Anthem/Polyphonic Blues by Irakli Kakabadze

Recorded in Tbilisi in 2004-05, Rose Anthem documents Kakabadze’s collaboration with Georgian rockers Irakli “Mefe” Charkviani and Ketato Pop in a highly charged mix of traditional folk polyphony and America rhythm and blues. Recorded a year later, Polyphonic Blues showcases Kakabadze’s ongoing collaboration with Gogi Dzodzuashvili/Postindustrial Boys, Georgia’s greatest creator of electronica.

Track listing:
1. Natalie Avery (3:55)
2. Tears and Joy (3:45)
3. Re-bell Atlantic (5:17)
4. Going to Shanghai (4:59)
5. Rose Blues Against War (11:29)
6. My Denomination (5:00)
7. Hey, Hey, Hey, Dude (4:12)
8. Post Feminist (4:31)
9. Main Street/Deconstruction Blues (4:31)
Music by Irakli "Mefe" Charkviani, Gogi Dzodzuashvili, Salome Korkota, and Ketato Pop. Lyrics by Irakli "Mefe" Charkviani and Irakli Kakabadze.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Woman in a Tree by Sarah Mkhonza

In this collection of poems, Sarah Mkhonza retraces her escape from Swaziland to the United States, where the images that haunt her also set her free.

"Woman in a Tree" reflects some of Sarah Mkhonza's experiences inside and outside her home in Swaziland. This important volume of poetry is filled with sadness, laughter, and the bitter taste of exile as Mkhonza reveals her concern for local clan customs and reacts to the violence against women and the subverted democracy in the hands of the ruling class. She is telling us her story with 'red ochre spread on every leaf.'"
--Jayne Cortez

"Woman in a Tree speaks to us with palpable tenderness. As Mkhonza unhinges, unlocks, and releases the words of women, be they real or ficticious, living or dead, there is a surging hope that sings beyond the last page."
--from the introduction by Michelle Courtney Berry

SARAH MKHONZA is the author of countless newspaper columns, two young adult novels, and a memoir. Her chapbook Two Stories was published by Vista Periodista in 2007. She currently lives in Ithaca, New York, where she teaches Zulu at Cornell University.

From Woman in a Tree


On a bloody Sunday journey
At the emergency room of a hospital
In a town called Manzini
In a country called Swaziland
The weekend plays soccer
On the bodies of women.
The suffering kills me inside.
Seen everywhere, it invades me—
Women limping, hips dislocated,
Heads bandaged,
My niece with no eye, but a marble in the socket,
My niece dead, nothing but a memory.
When does it end, this beating of women?

Answer me! My anxiety fails me,
For I am lunar, I will go mad
And run away in the night, crying murder all over.
Somebody is mad and not me;
Somebody inside me sees.
I just speak for all,
I do.

ISBN 0-9798112-1-X
45 pages

Friday, September 28, 2007

Two Stories by Sarah Mkhonza

Two Stories is a chapbook of short stories by Ithaca City of Asylum resident writer Sarah Mkhonza.

"The stories of Sarah Mkhonza are deceptively simple on the surface, smooth as a country pond, but deep and roiled beneath. And though they feel ancient, they're as relevant as anything in today's news."-- Russell Banks

In these stories, Sarah Mkhonza creates a set of sharply drawn, unsparing portraits of women living at the edges of Swazi society, from the landless scavengers of "No Place to Die" to the childless wife struggling to keep her husband in "Where Was Manandi Last Night."

Born in Swaziland, Sarah Mkhonza is the author of countless newspaper articles, two young adult novels, and a collection of poetry. She currently lives in Ithaca, New York.

From Two Stories

It was in the small hours of the morning, and she could see the light through the cracks in the walls of the hut. She looked at the place where the thatch met the wall and confirmed that it was surely daybreak. Makatikoti stretched out on the mat, still hoping that she was dreaming. She could not believe it. Manandi had not come home. She wondered what had happened to him...

36 pages
ISBN 0-9798112-0-1

Friday, September 21, 2007

Audience by Bridget Meeds

In a series of post-performance scenes, Bridget Meeds crosses and recrosses the line between observer and observed, turning inward in a play of witness, action, and memory. Audience begins in the shadows of September 11th and spans a year as Meeds travels from one entertainment to another and the nation moves inexorably toward war.

Bridget Meeds is the author of the long poem Light, about a year working in a pizzeria in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Tuning the Beam, about a month as a poet-in-residence at a laboratory for high-energy particle physics.

From Audience

Takacs Quartet
April 20, 2002

A tidal wave of little deaths
crests and crashes over the world,
and another and another and another...

73 pages
ISBN 0-9798112-1-X

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Reason for the Wind by Roni Fuller

A Reason for the Wind, Roni Fuller's new book of poetry, begins where Fuller's previous collection left off, as he recovers from his wife's death, detailing his travels to El Salvador, as well as his internal travel through the uncharted terrority of grief, memory, and longing.

From A Reason for the Wind

It was here that I learned
to open and taste granadia,
scooping up its wet, sweet juice,
and know the soft flesh
of maranon, beneath which
grows the cashew,
curved and hard.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Tracing the Path by the Cascadilla Poets

Tracing the Path is an anthology of poems by The Cascadilla Poets: Peggy Billings, Inta Ezergailis, Jon Frankel, Bridget Meeds, and Ann Silsbee, with guest poets Yi Ping and Lin Zhou.

"In a collection like this one, a reader could single out the virtuosity of one poet, a purity of tone of another, or the verbal mastery of a third, but to do so is at odds with the intent. The gifts of each contributor are substantial, but their mutual accomplishment is even more remarkable. This group of poets can serve as a model for many others of us today, whatever our age and calling."
from the introduction by James McConkey

from Tracing the Path

Jon Frankel: Down Below a Baby Cries

A corkscrew
turning to be free.

So strong
The whole human muscle and its brain
Are bent to one conclusion.

The mother walks it back and forth
Through leopard spots of sun.

Inta Ezergailis: The Dress

It flows in the window-light,
greens, reds, some pink--
the same and not the same
as one some fifty years ago
in the window of a store
of a small Bavarian town,
so soon after the War
that we had no books, but took notes
on organic chemistry and Cornelius Nepos
in neat deferential German longhand.

New lives were being offered, sparingly.
It was possible to cash in on survival,
somehow, though life was not as rich
as it had looked in the bunker,
with Berlin being swept away outside,
when all seemed possible if one was spared,
when, at twelve, I thought
I had brought on the war,
and begged forgiveness for such small sings
as I'd been capable of, clenched my hands,
prayed, sitting straight--God's good pupil--
as the bombs saturated all.

Now there was life--
refugee camp, German school,
the goldpaving of Ottawa or Boston,
or the Australian outback.
The senses in their timid flowering
seized on the dress in a shop window
on the way to school, a shop
which must have been expensive.
The single dress lay seductively
at a languid angle, fluid, silky.
No mannequin--pure, sweet, virgin,
it was waiting for me alone.
Transcendence without mediation.

The missed years of slow awakenings,
of stirrings in the body denied space and time,
trying to find root, turn delicately outward.
Did someone buy it, someone rich and glorious?

The town was Rosenheim, home of roses.

88 pages
ISBN 0-9702498-2-9

Half-Light by Peggy Billings

"Coming upon the collected work of a poet new to us, we should resist the tendency to read the poems in quick succession. Half-Light contains any number of poems that deserve to be lingered over: They need, as good literature always does, to be created all over again in the reader's imagination."
from the introduction by James McConkey

Poet Peggy Billings was born in McComb, Mississippi, in 1928. From 1952-63, she served as a missionary in war-torn South Korea. After her return to the United States in 1963, she went to work for the United Methodist Church, devoting her life to racial justice, civil rights, community action, peace, international affairs, and women's issues. She has remained involved with Korea during its democracy and human rights struggles. She is currently retired and living near Trumansburg, NY.

From Half-Light

End of the Day

When the sun
goes down
behind the Palisades,

shade climbs up
the sides of the buildings
to rest on rooftops.

On Broadway,
the barber's pole
whirrs the evening prayer.

People hurrying home
from the subway
cover their heads with half-light,

of wild lilac and shadow.

Like a child
reluctant to come inside,
the light lingers on our stoop.

66 pages
ISBN 0-9702498-7-X

Don't Go to the Reception with Friends of the Groom! by Reza Daneshvar

A drive into the countryside beyond Paris turns surreal in Don't Go to the Reception with Friends of the Groom! a mischievously disorienting fantasia that mirrors the immigrant's sense of dislocation. With serio-comic intensity, Reza Daneshvar gives us the inherent absurdity of the exile trying to negotiate another culture's darkest recesses.

From Don't Go to the Reception with Friends of the Groom!

When they left the city, a thick fog greeted them; the car was gradually swallowed up as if it were driving into an ocean.

"Oh, it's lovely, all this fog!" the woman exclaimed.

"How can we see the signs? We're bound to get lost," said Hassan-aqa, apprehensive.

"Don't worry, my husband's eyes are sharper than an eagle's." And she suddenly burst out laughing. Hassan-aqa had just discovered that the lenses of her husband's glasses, thick as wine-bottle bottoms, were heavily coated with mist....

translated by Catherine Porter
18 pages
ISBN 0-9702498-6-1

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mahboobeh and Ahl by Reza Dansevhar

Stretching across forty years of Iranian history, Mahboobeh and Ahl tells the allergorical story of a young woman and the demon that haunts her, beginning at the outset of World War II and ending with the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Told with the simplicity of a folk tale, it explores the oppression of women within the contexts of tradition and modernity, leavening its critique with humor, beauty, and poetry. Reza Daneshvar has written four novels in Persian, three short story collections, and seven plays. This is his first publication in English; it is translated by Ashurbanipal Babilla and edited by Nahid Mozaffari and Deborah Tall. Reza Daneshvar currently lives in Paris and works as a radio journalist. Read an interview with Reza Daneshvar at http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=12977466&BRD=1395&PAG=461&dept_id=216620&rfi=6.

From Mahboobeh and Ahl

"The story they told was that Mahboobeh's father's aunt, Hajar, was responsible for the family's uprooting in the year one thousand, three hundred, and eighteen of the Hijra. A few months before Mahboobeh's birth in the city, the wind demon unleashed a savage storm from his sack, tearing up God's good earth, and exposing, bit by bit, for all to see, the remains of the aunt, gruesomely slain. Wailing and scandal filled the land...."

31 pages
ISBN 0-9702498-4-5

God's Breath by Roni Fuller

Written in a maelstrom of grief, God's Breath is a testament to love torn asunder and a musing about how the structures of Jewish life give shape to feelings that seem uncontrollable. Roni Fuller grew up in a small town in Southern California, and began writing poetry more than fifty years ago. He has also lived in Israel, El Salvador, and on the Navajo Reservation. He currently lives in Brooktondale, NY with a son and a granddaughter. You can read more of Roni's poetry at http://www.ronifuller.com/.

From God's Breath

The wind breathes life,
as God's breath,
the sacred name,
seemed to carry you away.
I watched your calm breathing
slow and stop,
as planets spun
a plotted course,
as leaves unfolded,
as streams flowed on.

ISBN 0-9702498-5-3

The Speech of Pebbles by Yi Ping

The Speech of Pebbles by Chinese poet and human rights activist Yi Ping is his first collection in English. The poems were translated by a group of poetry students at Ithaca College, directed by their teacher Jerry Mirskin. Yi Ping was born in 1952 in Beijing. As a teenager during the Cultural Revolution, he was sent to the countryside, where he met his wife, translator Lin Zhou. After returning to Beijing, he participated in the Students' Democracy Movement and was permanently banned from teaching and forbidden to publish his work. In 1991, Yi Ping fled to Poland, and in 1997 he was granted political asylum by the U.S. government. In 2001-2003, he was the first writer in residence for the Ithaca City of Asylum program. Currently, he edits the web magazine Human Rights in China (http://www.hrichina.org/public/). The Chinese and English versions of each poem appear in the book.

From The Speech of Pebbles


Return now to what is true.
The simple clarity
of soil and sky.
The field of stones.

Time fades quickly.
Let impermanence dawn.
The origins and commonalities,
water and wind,
elements of forever
pelting the cliffs.

Calm and solemn
light shines upon the ruins.
The work of time.
The silence of motion
from earth to stars.

An end. A beginning.

Translated by Betsy Strong

In Chinese and English
ISBN 0-9702498-3-7

Naming the Disappeared by Ann Silsbee

Naming the Disappeared is a carefully written chapbook of compact poems, many of which are inspired by photographs by Dorothea Lange. Writer Ann Silsbee was a composer and poet whose works were widely performed and published. She was married to the physicist Robert Silsbee, whose photographs illustrate the chapbook, and had three sons.

from Naming the Disappeared

The Storyteller

listens inside his corral of bones
head back eye-gates closed mouth rut-circled
shows not a hint of hoofbeat or neigh
though you know he feels story nudge him
kick in his belly nose at his lungs
When his eyes flare white he'll not stand tame
in his baggy raincoat He'll seize us
jump ahorse with us gallop us off
flinging his wide brimmed hat to the wind

ISBN 0-9702498-1-0