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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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Tonight in NYC at Bluestockings Bookstore, is an Agent 409 reading and zine launch of the Security Agent edition. Agent 409 is a multi-racial group of queer writers. Open your ears to literature that blows up checkpoints, smashes border walls, and handcuffs you to desire. It goes down 7pm-8:30pm at 172 Allen St. New York, NY.

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Published Jun 30, 2010 - Comments Off on Tamiko Beyer, poetry ed, reads in NYC

“The History of the Typewriter recited by Michael Winslow” is a 21 minute long film made by artist Ignacio Uriarte. It’s incredible.

Via Rob Ray via Bad at Sports.

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Published Jun 30, 2010 - Comments Off on Police Academy guy imitates 32 typewriters

From The Cafe Review, “These last poems by Reetika Vazirani, written before her death in 2003, are meditations on transience and impermeability. Her language is free; lyrical, playful, bittersweet at times, rich in scholarly references, and with an ability to soar and dive within mere syllables. Now, that’s her language alone. What’s under the surface, the bedrock of her poems, is a different story. Barriers are Saturnian, impossible to navigate without pain. Ancient ghosts and guardians loom over us, the readers. Women can share the fate of their own mothers, often unwillingly, ground down by menial chores and misery caused by a father, lover, or husband. And absolutely no one is a god or goddess on this earth.

This is Vazirani’s warning, even as the poems lilt and sparkle. The contrast between her exquisite language and negotiations with shadows create poetic tensions that are powerful, impossible to forget. It’s what Federico García Lorca called “duende”: an urgent dance on the edge of danger, being gripped by primeval forces. Add to this the way Vazirani speaks of cultural or political barriers, their complex negotiations, and we feel an authentic, hard – earned voice.

The “Radha” of the title — she is the mythical Hindu Radha, beloved consort of Krishna — comes in many guises and personas within this book, alternately vain, ambitious, and ambivalent: a bored guest at banquets, a foil for the fickle and elusive Krishna – like man frequently mentioned, and even, in one poem, Doris Snyder, a hat – check girl on Radha Street. While the poems’ narrators often glimpse divine energies, as in “Nuptials” and “Territory,” they rarely realize wholeness completely. Sharp questioning and fragmentations intrude in “Born,” which concludes the book:

I say god to be wed to the dream
of an avatar what could be worse?
listen it could be if god sent no money

Like an illustrious predecessor — the 16th century poet Mirabai, from Rajasthan — Vazirani alternates praise and complaints within her poems. She is done with worldly vanity, as in the disillusionment of the narrator in “Swamp Green,” and in these lines from “Born”:

forget every bit of floral lace lipstick and any other
buffer between glamour and being done for

And even in the achievement of long – held professional dreams, in a contemporary setting, comes the realization that the world for Vazirani’s poetic narrators can be full of cruelty, envious rivals, and hypocrites. A line from the title poem, “Radha Says,” makes this clear:

the suburban stepinfechit smiles
of realtors laughing at your tribe

Surely for Vazirani, an immigrant who was born in India, this aspect of the American dream was painful to live deal with. Yet using the “stepinfechit” metaphor makes it clear that she knows the lackeys of culture, money, and power to be more insidious than all of us even know. All of us, especially women, can turn lackey, as in the narrator from “Born” who says bluntly that “he’s a god and I’m errands” or in the last two lines of “Ambient:”

mother what you lived I learned
smiling at the list of chores

Reading these poems, however, I became increasingly disturbed by the Radha persona. It is like a mask that cannot be removed, with its crimson and gold paint turned toxic, its scholarly allusions useless in a world of fragmentations and harsh choices. I was reminded, more than once, of Muriel Ruykeyser’s “The Poem as Mask,” with its cry of “No more mythologies!” and how it once entreated poets to reject anything that blocked telling their own real experiences. When Vazirani speaks of the life of a single mother, the details themselves, such as a visit to a public health clinic in “Born,” have true clarity, are authentic and compelling enough without the lure of a myth.

In conclusion, what is Vazirani really saying to us? The same thing Rukeyser told us — No more masks! — but with her own painful truths. May a new generation of poets arise, particularly women poets, who really do not need or choose the old masks in any way whatsoever. That’s still my wish.

— Sharon Olinka”

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Published Jun 25, 2010 - Comments Off on The Cafe Review Reviews Radha Says

11th Annual LIT MAG MARATHON WEEKEND, June 19th and 20th in NYC

It’s time once again for CLMP’s annual Lit Mag Marathon Weekend, a massive showcase of America?s diverse literary magazines and journals.

The Magathon
New York Public Library’s DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room, 5th Ave. at 42nd St.
Saturday, June 19th from 4–6:30 PM

The Magathon kicks off the weekend with a celebratory “marathon” reading. Dozens of editors representing journals of different sizes and styles will present favorite selections from their latest issues. DB will be reading selections from our upcoming issue!

The GIANT Lit Mag Fair at Housing Works
Housing Works Used Book Café, 126 Crosby Street in Soho
Sunday, June 20th from 12–5PM

Lit fiends can take home armfuls of lit mags discounted more than 50% at only $2 a copy! Choose from hundreds of magazines from all over the country and hobnob with many of the editors who’ll be there in person to meet and greet.

Proceeds go to Housing Works, a nonprofit organization serving homeless people living with AIDS, and to The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, a nonprofit organization serving independent literary publishers.

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Published Jun 15, 2010 - Comments Off on DB @ CLMP Weekend in NYC

Poetry submissions are now open. Onward, comrades! Visit http://www.drunkenboat.com/submissions/index.php to submit.

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Published Jun 01, 2010 - Comments Off on Guess what?