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Radha Says

The final collection by award-winning poet Reetika Vazirani, published by Drunken Boat.

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Annotations of contemporary poetry edited by Lisa Russ Spaar, published by Drunken Boat.


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This morning, I sat in my room with the blinds drawn trying to summon my duende. In DB’s Spring 2002 issue, Reb Livingston wrote a piece on the many interpretations of duende. But after an hour of freaking myself out — the blinds in my room are metallic and hefty, meaning that they do a pretty darned good job of keeping out the light — nothing emerged: not a single goblin (the academic interpretation), not a shred of inspiration (Federico Garcia Lorca’s favored interpretation).

Lorca may have been fascinated with inspiration because of its intangibility. In his eyes, the concept of inspiration could have been a relative of death — a much larger intangibility. Ms. Livingston writes that death was part of Lorca’s life: when his younger brother died, the image of the brother in his casket was so seared that it would become a poetic motif. Later, Lorca struggled with a third intangibility: sexuality. For a while, he tried to convince himself that he liked women (“the great sacrifice of semen” — classic) until he realized that, for him, men were the real deal. (You go, honey.)

I think I’ve got a lot in common with good ol’ Lorca. (Would he approve of me referring to him so informally? And what is the Spanish colloquial equivalent of “good ol'”?) I am similarly afflicted by a struggle between my erotic and spiritual selves. For example, take Sex and the City, a show that I greatly admire. (Don’t judge.) It is absolutely one of my favorite shows. Those women are my heroes. But I am probably more of a prude than even Charlotte York… my point is that I sometimes feel guilty about my erotic self, and at times, I wonder if that guilt is simply just a self-defeating result of trying to live up to unrealistic spiritual ideals.

Death has dogged me since 2005. That summer, the abdominal pains were fleeting. But when they struck, they were so terrible that I would sit hunched over trying to breathe them away, like I was pregnant. By fall, I couldn’t even defecate. It turned out that I had a blood clot in my stomach, and by the time that diagnosis was made, my abdomen was basically cement. The agony was excruciating. I would blank out and see…


No angels, no saints. Nothing. As a lifelong Catholic and the son of a young mother who enjoyed taking me to horror movies when I was barely out of elementary school, I had expected to see signs and wonders. After my surgery, release, and eventual recovery, I came away from the experience believing that I was as unworthy in death as I had been in life.

Inspiration and the mysteries of death elude me. I’m not sure how successful Lorca was with his romances, but men have alluded me as well. Someone superstitious (like my mom) probably would not have approved of me sitting here in the dark trying to summon a goblin, even if the goblin was inspiration, a muse. Someone superstitious might think that I was dangerously toying with dark forces. Despite what you might think about a mother taking her little kid to watch horror movies, I actually enjoyed the experience. It was a unique way of spending quality time with my mom, and even more importantly, I actually came away quite emboldened, not scared. Take those Ring movies, for example. (I prefer the two American remakes.) There wouldn’t be so many problems if only someone had sat down with the dead little girl and had a real conversation with her. You know what I mean? Just take her aside and say, “All right, dead girl. What’s up?” Sure, she might try and kill you with her terrifying supernatural ways, but at that point, if she refuses to hold a civilized conversation, you go into self-defense mode and mimic as much Krav Maga as you can muster. Problem solved. This morning, had some terrifying force emerged, I would have been scared for a moment — fear is a natural biological reaction, after all — before I offered either conversation or dished out some Krav Maga.

These days, the world is in such turmoil that we don’t have the patience to deal with intangibles. March, unfortunately, is not going out like a lamb. The U.S. has rain storms on both coasts, and the health care debate certainly did not come to a quiet resolution. Jobs are elusive, and so is happiness. The new Wild West is life itself. All the old ways have suddenly lost their meaning. Anything goes. Having trouble summoning your muse? Yank him out of the ether and smack him around a few times.

By Joe Ramelo, Social Media Assistant.

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Published Mar 31, 2010 - Comments Off on Come out, come out wherever you are

What is your writing routine? Today’s “cooler” authors like to espouse a lack of routine. It just comes to them, they say. When they hear about the routines of other writers, they don’t buy it. PR nonsense, they say.

I’m inclined to agree because I don’t have much of a routine, either. Or, at least, it may seem like I don’t have a routine because I’m too close to the situation. Perhaps if a friend, or otherwise an outsider, observed me for a day, they would pick up on quirks and habits that I cannot separate from breathing or picking my nose.

Naomi Maruta’s Night Hawk photo montage captures the essence of the latest evolution in my writing routine. My writing routine may as well be tied to my overall character: after job hunting since January, I am still unemployed. Worse yet, my creative writing is stalled. As a writer, I am also a whole person. My personality is frozen, held hostage by lack of opportunity, a dearth of encouragement, and hope: how hope had once shined so bright, like a supernova, to then violently dissolve.

I feel abandoned.

This is not to say that I am courting your pity. We are all allowed our moments. Go ahead and cry. Be hurt. Let yourself feel the hurt.

Then come back for a full assault.

At first, Night Hawk familiarly rings of footage from a security or traffic camera — both of which I have a strange fascination for watching. As writers, we allegedly have keen eyes, so maybe we’d make good security guards. We could keep an eye out for anomalies, but have enough patience to watch footage that sometimes has long stretches of nothingness. During those lags, our minds would wander and we could create stories based on the unassuming images.

The title Night Hawk is a promise, and the images consistently deliver on that promise. We are treated to a world that exists after the commuter trains have stopped running, when the rush hour has died down, and the day has ended for many people. The montage consists of images you might indeed expect from surveillance: cityscapes and their empty sidewalks, a deserted street, a rooftop. Sometimes there are people of the night: a casino employee, for example, and slot machine players. Maybe they’ve been sitting there all day.

Here is my favorite Night Hawk image: a night market called, simply, ‘GET’. There are four people at the market. It must be so busy during the day, but at night, there’s just those four. How did I, myself, become a night hawk anyway? The simple answer is unemployment. The complex answer is capitalism, consumerism, backroom deals and dreams deferred.

A market called ‘GET’.

My new routine as a writer and as a person is nocturnal. I stay up later, sometimes until midnight, and I don’t usually wake up until eight. “That’s what happens when you’re unemployed,” my roommate said, gently, without malice. But it still stung. It stung like the days of unrequited cover letters to jobs and query letters to agents and editors. How do I cure the sting? How do I assault the hurt? By staying up late into the hours when the rest of the world is dormant, powerless. At night, I have power. When dawn arrives and the rest of the world begins again, I have already ended. Someday, I would like to rejoin you. I would like to realign myself with the world, because the nocturnal routine is, quite frankly, lonely. When I have a job, and when I can again take pride in my writing, I’ll let you know. I’ll let you know when things are back to okay. For now, you can start without me.

Set to music, with an accompanying video, Night Hawk might be a good fit with this song:

Night Hawk is part of DB’s third issue in Fall/Winter 2001-2002 — almost ten years ago. But what a wonderful expression of contraction. My, my. The more things change…

By Joe Ramelo, Social Media Assistant.

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Published Mar 30, 2010 - Comments Off on Start without me

Call For Submissions

for a proposed anthology of new short works commemorating the centenary of the lyricist’s birth

SAMMY CAHN (1913-1993), the Academy- and Emmy-Award-winning lyricist of many of the standards commonly referred to as the “Great American Songbook,” as well as the writer who “put more words into Frank Sinatra’s mouth than any other,” was very vocal in his disagreement with the policy that writers are not able to copyright the titles of their compositions.

In honor of the upcoming centenary of his birth in 2013, and with a loving wink at his titular annoynace, Dr. Gilbert L. Gigliotti of Central Connecticut State University is soliciting new poems, flash fiction, flash non-fiction, and micro-plays, each with the same title as one of his song lyrics.  The new pieces need not refer to the songwriter’s lyrics nor be similar in theme or style to the originals; the editor only seeks a variety of literary approaches toward – and treatments of – Cahn’s titles. Among some of his most widely recognizable songs include Call Me Irresponsible, Come Fly With Me, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along — just to name a very few.

Please send your submission by 1 July 2010 to gigliotti@ccsu.edu or:

Dr. Gilbert L. Gigliotti
Department of English
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050

Gilbert L. Gigliotti is a Professor of English at Central Connecticut State University and the editor of a pair of anthologies published by Entasis Press of Washington, DC, Sinatra: But Buddy I’m a Kind of Poem (2008) and Ava Gardner: Touches of Venus (2010).


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Published Mar 28, 2010 - Comments Off on Sammy Re-Cahn-sidered

Shohreh Aghdashloo is most visible to American audiences in House of Sand and Fog, the film based on the novel by Andre Dubus III, and Fox’s television hit 24. She was particularly enjoyable in such films as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Lake House, both of which offered her small roles that she magnified to charismatic effect. She was especially memorable in the short-lived CBS caper drama Smith for — Spoiler Alert! — her turn as the godfather-like head of a den of thieves. (Think Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone, except so much cooler… sorry, Marlon Brando fans.)

But before the rise of her acting career, Ms. Aghdashloo spent her teenage years in pre-Revolution Iran reciting her favorite Persian poetry. Now, it is our great pleasure to announce that she will bring her commanding presence to an evening of poetry presented by Words without Borders. Ms. Aghdashloo will read her favorite poetry as well as some of the work from Words without Borders’s astonishing new anthology of 20th century world poetry, The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris. If you are in New York, this April 19 event will be a treat for poetry enthusiasts and cineasts alike.

Event highlights:

*April 19 at 7pm
*Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street
*$100 for reading and reception
*Tickets available at http://shohrehagdashloo.eventbrite.com/

Click here to view the invite.

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Published Mar 26, 2010 - Comments Off on Persian dispatches

Great event to check out if you’re in the UK. For more about this event, click here. Time and date, address, and RSVP details in image below. To see a larger version, click on the image.

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Published Mar 25, 2010 - Comments Off on Launch party for Mexican poets tour

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