Monday, July 30, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Twenty-Two (Divakaruni)

"The World Tree"

Just a couple of hours ago, I had the most exhilarating conversation with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni for Tiferet Talk. If you were not able to listen live, I urge you to listen to the archive as soon as possible. She said the most beautiful things about the importance of telling stories and building communities. As well, in honor of her recent novel, One Amazing Thing, she shared with us a truly amazing story from her own life. What a gift this interview was!

Needless to say, I've chosen one of Divakaruni's poems to memorize this week. It comes from the collection Leaving Yuba City, which was published in 1997 and encompasses a variety of topics. Here's a blurb from Booklist: “Everything Divakaruni touches with her exquisitely sensitive writer’s mind—whether it’s a memory, or a scene between wife and husband—turns to gold. She demonstrated her mastery of the short story in Arranged Marriages, and of the novel in The Mistress of Spices , and now shows her mastery of poetry in this bittersweet volume, her third collection. Each of her lyrical and haunting poems opens slowly, like a flower, then rapidly picks up speed and intensity until it glows like a meteor as it plunges into the deepest recesses of the heart. Divakaruni begins with devastatingly eloquent evocations of a sorrowful childhood in Darjeeling, then moves on to imaginative and compelling poems inspired by the photographs of Raghubir Singh, paintings by Francesco Clemente, and films by Indian directors, including Satyajit Ray and Mira Nair. In the final section, she dramatizes the circumscribed lives of persecuted Punjab farmers who immigrated early in this century to Yuba City, California. Strongly narrative, shimmeringly detailed, and emotionally acute, Divakaruni’s poetry embraces pain and beauty in its affirmation of grace."

I hope you enjoy the poem and the interview as much as I did!

The World Tree

The tree grows out of my navel. Black
as snakeskin, it slithers upward, away
from my voice. Spreads
across the entire morning, its leaf-tongues
drinking the light. It bores its roots
into my belly till I can no longer tell them
from my dry, gnarled veins. And when it is sure
I will never forget the pain
of its birthing, it parts its branches

so I can see, far
in that ocean of green,
a figure, tiny and perfect, pale
as ivory, leaning
on his elbow. He looks down and I know
that mouth, those eyes. Mine.
I raise my arm. I am calling
loud as I can. He gazes
into the distance, the bright, rippling
air. It is clear
he sees, hears nothing. I continue
to call. The tree grows and grows
into the world between us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Twenty-One (Lorca)

Federico García Lorca
Translated by W. S. Merwin

Here's a gorgeous little poem by Federico García Lorca. What hunger for life he conveys, even in death! And so much is said with just a few simple images. It's like the first and last stanzas are the balcony doors swung open, and the stanzas between them are a glimpse into an exotic, yet familiar, realm. I can see the gauzy curtains blowing in the wind, the corpse listening from the bed. 

If you are new to Lorca, his full name is Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca, and he was a Spanish poet and playwright and part of a group of avante-garde artists known as Generación del 27, which included Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel and other notables. Lorca lived from 1898 - 1936. 

If you're new to the blog, you might want to look at the first Mnemosyne Post to find out what this project is all about.



Si muero,
dejad el balcón abierto.

El niño come naranjas.
(Desde mi balcón lo veo).

El segador siega el trigo.
(Desde mi balcón lo siento.)

¡Si muero,
dejad el balcón abierto!


If I die, 
leave the balcony open.

The little boy is eating oranges.
(From my balcony I can see him.)

The reaper is harvesting the wheat.
(From my balcony I can hear him.)

If I die,
leave the balcony open.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'll Stand by You Write Step Interview


I'm delighted to announce that I've been invited to join R. Jeffreys of The Write Step radio show to co-host an interview with Founder and Director of Global Medical Relief Fund for children,outstanding humanitarian and now author, Elissa Montanti.  Montanti will be joined by multi-published writer and Psychology Today columnist Jennifer Haupt, who worked in collaboration with Montanti in writing I'll Stand by You (to be released August 2, 2012) about Montanti ’s personal experiences in aiding children who are missing or have lost the use of limbs or eyes, who have been severely burned, or have been injured through war, natural disaster or illness throughout the world.

Montanti, who People Magazine dubbed as "the saint of Staten Island," is changing the world one child at a time. Fourteen years ago, she was a lab technician in Staten Island. She had, in the span of only a few years, lost her beloved mother, grandmother, and high school sweetheart. Hoping to find a way past her own troubles and the depression and panic attacks that quietly crippled her, she decided to raise money for school supplies for the children of war-torn Bosnia. But at a meeting with the UN ambassador she learned that those children didn’t need pencils. He showed her a photo of a boy who had lost both arms and one leg to a land mine; these children needed a lot more.

She went to Bosnia, brought the boy and his mother back to Staten Island, and arranged for free prosthetics and medical care. The Global Medical Relief Fund was born.

She founded the non-profit, non-partisan Global Medical Relief Fund. A 501c3 organization, GMRF is supported entirely by private donations and grants. Since 1997, GMRF has brought more than 150 children to the U.S, from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia for treatment, surgery and prosthetic limb and eye fittings. The countries include Bosnia, China, El Salvador, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Mexico, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, the Congo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Libya .The injured children come from countries or regions that can offer only minimal medical care, poorly fitted prostheses, or none at all.

Elissa Montanti and her story of unconditional love and charity to grievously injured children throughout the world has been widely featured in every media outlet. She has also received numerous awards and honorariums for her outstanding humanitarian work.

For more information, and for a list of Montanti's awards and media credits, please see The Write Step show page, which is the post from which much of this copy was borrowed.

The Show
airs 07/25/2012 at 6:30 pm EST/5:30 pm CST/3:30 pm PST at:

Muse for Women Publication

I'm delighted to announce a new publication--the Anthology of Muse for Women, which is a volume of poetry dedicated to the prevention of violence against women. The collection is edited by Mutiu Olawuyi and Prof Denise Dee Sweet and contains a poem I wrote for the women of Atenco, Mexico, as well as many fine poems by other writers. It can be purchased at both Amazon in Kindle and Createspace in paperback.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Twenty (Hopkins)

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pied Beauty 

What a delicious poem this is. I could just eat it. The glorious, delight in sound is a true celebration of language, infused with divinity--dappled, pied, plotted, and pieced. As you can tell by now, I have drifted far from my original intention not to talk about the poems in the body of the post. They're just too exciting.

So, this week our poet is Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins was a Victorian poet and Jesuit priest, known for developing a poetic technique known as sprung rhythm, which sought to imitate the natural patterns of speech.

To hear a beautiful reading of the poem, please click HERE.

If you're new to the blog, you might want to look at the first Mnemosyne Post to find out what this project is all about.

                                             Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Nineteen (Valentine)

Jean Valentine

Join me this week for a journey into Jean Valentine's Home Deep Blue to memorize the poem "Night." I read this piece for the first time just a few days ago and was awestruck by it. The first two lines and the last line, in particular, render me captive of the moment, delightfully bound to the girl, the poet, the train--to the sticky, crooked wonder of it all.

If you're not familiar with, Jean Valentine, she has published eleven collections of poetry, won numerous awards, and taught at several colleges and universities, including Sarah Lawrence College, the Graduate Writing Program of New York University, and Columbia University.

Of her poetry, Adrienne Rich says, "Looking into a Jean Valentine poem is like looking into a lake: you can see your own outline, and the shapes of the upper world, reflected among rocks, underwater life, glint of lost bottles, drifted leaves. The known and familiar become one with the mysterious and half-wild, at the place where consciousness and the subliminal meet. This is a poetry of the highest order, because it lets us into spaces and meanings we couldn't approach in any other way."

If you're new to the blog, you might want to look at the first Mnemosyne Post to find out what this project is all about.


From this night on God let me eat
like that blind child on the train
touching her yogurt as I'd touch a spiderweb
the first morning in the country--sky red--

holding the carton and spoon to her mouth
with all her eyeless body, and then
orientally resting, the whole time smiling
a little to one side of straight ahead.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Eighteen (Harper)

Reuben, Reuben
Michael S. Harper

My selection this week is the powerful Michael S. Harper poem, "Reuben, Reuben," from the collection Images of Kin, which came out in 1977 and was nominated for a National Book Award.  It has been pointed out by the scholar Michael G. Cooke that although Harper writes of blood relations in several poems, his use of the word “kinship” in this collection is much broader, spanning out "across time, across space, even across race" to refer to "social bonding, a recognition of likeness in context, concern, need, liability, value.” It's a beautiful thing.

If you're not familiar with Michael S. Harper, he was born in Brooklyn in 1938, has published more than ten collections of poetry, and was the first poet laureate of the state of Rhode Island.

As well, if you're new to the blog, you might want to look at the first Mnemosyne Post to find out what this project is all about.

Reuben, Reuben

I reach from pain
to music great enough
to bring me back,
swollenhead, madness,
lovefruit, pickle of hate
so sour my mouth twicked
up and would not sing;
there's nothing in the beat
to hold it in
melody and turn human skin;
a brown berry gone
to rot just two days on the branch;
we've lost a son,
the music, jazz, comes in.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Six Weeks to Yehidah Named Finalist for Readers Favorite Award and Other News

I'm thrilled to announce that Six Weeks to Yehidah is a finalist for yet another award. Along with five other books, SWTY is in the running for a Readers Favorite Award in the preteen category. Winners will be announced on September 1st, 2012. I am so delighted, honored, humbled, and encouraged by all of the attention the book is receiving. I just may write another one!

As well, I'd like to share this photo from a reading I gave last Friday. It was my honor to read the poems of Erica Lehrer alongside Ron Starbuck and Donna McKenzie. Erica suffers from a disease called ataxia, and all of the proceeds from her wonderful book, Dancing with Ataxia, will be donated towards research of the disease.