Author Archives: Lisa Hase-Jackson

Monkey in a Cup by Javy Awan

I used to mail-order the little monkeys in a cup,
advertised on two-bit comic book back covers,
but the compact box with air holes at the top
didn’t come—I know it was dumb, but I sent cash:
laureled one cents, buffalo nickels, burning-torch dimes,
and Liberty quarters scotch-taped to a card and sealed
in a stamped envelope addressed with best penmanship.

Years and many moves later—they must have tracked
me down like schools their alumni—the delivery arrived:
the miniature hermit monkey snug in his sturdy
live-in cup of Horn & Hardart cafeteria china—
he was a born commuter, a philosopher in a tub.

He’d climb out and walk around wherever set down,
and despite the ad’s fine-print disclaimer about luck,
he had the knack of picking out winners at the track—
dogs, thoroughbreds, and trotters—offsetting expenses.

He’d tell fortunes as a parlor trick, with a deck
of mishmash cards almost as tall, laying out the draw
and discerning the gist with tiny finger to tiny lip
and detective tics of his head. He’d mime the result
with movements precise and unmistakable:
going to the bank, falling in love, fighting a battle,
earning a degree, sailing a ship, and marrying.

Somehow, the single monkey in a cup multiplied—
each Saturday breakfast, the row of mugs had grown,
with furred pates and bright eyes peeking over each brim.

I figure that back in the day a shipment of monkeys
must have escaped and hid out in a post office store room;
they intercepted crates of mugs, and in a few generations,
resumed fulfilling the long-delayed orders,
boyhood to manhood. That would explain it.

Javy Awan’s poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Solstice, Ghost City Review, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Ekphrastic Review; two of his poems were selected for reading at locations on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour in 2019. He lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

 

Two Writing Workshops in June

There have been more than a few requests for workshops that treat works in progress, so I am offering two in June, one for poetry and the other for short prose.

These will be supportive, developmental workshops that include revision prompts and exercises designed to help writers view their work with fresh eyes and gain a renewed sense of purpose.

Registration is open and seats are limited.

Summer Poetry Workshop

This group will meet  June 2, 16, & 30 from 7:15 to 9:15 pm. EDST via Zoom to read, write, discuss, and workshop poetry.

$175 ($25 credit per referral).

TO REGISTER: Send email to lisahasejackson@gmail.com

Micro-prose and Flash Fiction Workshop
(and prose poetry, too
)

Saturday June 5, 12, 19, & 26 1:00-3:00PM ET via Zoom.

This workshop will focus on works that range from 50 to 1000 words and explore the commonalities and differences between lyric prose, prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro-prose. 

$200 ($25 credit per referral).

TO REGISTER: Send email to lisahasejackson@gmail.com

Tethering by Carolyn Martin

Be tethered to native pastures even if it reduces you
to a backyard in New York.
– Henry James

This morning’s rain kept me inside
and I swear I heard weeds in my flower beds cheer
and aggravated birds crackle in the neighbor’s cherry tree.

More natives to add to the cats, squirrels, moles,
and slugs rough-shodding the yard;
not to mention maples, moss, firs, and perennials seasoning.

But my landscape is running out.
I may have to track down the Polish pasture
where my grandmother plowed courage and tears

or search out my Russian father’s New York flat
which, if memory serves, lacked a bathroom
and stove, not to mention a hint of yard.

This morning’s news might reduce me
to nabbing images from a Mars volcano flow
or the Deep Solar Minimum of our quieting sun

or the 17-year-locusts resurrecting again.
So much life happening beyond my kitchen table
and the tethered views I bank my poems on.

And yet … yesterday I watched errant robins ignore
earthworms to dine on suet cake while my lone iris bulb –
its first time out – exploded into purple-black magnificence.

And it’s true I’ve yet to find words for how
summer breezes train lily leaves to wave at me
or why the brightest star in the western sky comforts my nights.

Always more, Nature whispers, from the corners of my yard.
Of course! I cheer, startling the song sparrow performing
her signature piece from a dripping dogwood tree.

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, writing and photography. Her poems have been published in journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. She is currently the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterly: journal for global transformation.

Bisymmetry by Denise Low

I open a map scaled one to one

read it as fast as I can

but cannot catch up with Borges

who writes:

 

“Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire

whose size was that of the Empire,

and which coincided point for point with it.” 

 

Press my torso into garden mud

for a full print. Voilà.

 

Scatter Pompeii ashes over a volcano

and wait two thousand years.

 

Paint the Mona Lisa but it’s only

my inept fake (damn, the smile’s crooked).

 

Shoes, put the left one on the left foot, the right one

            correctly aligned with the right big toe. Walk.

 

Mittens, don’t forget the opposing-thumbed mittens.

            Thumbs and toes, toes and thumbs.

 

Quote from “On Exactitude in Science,” Jorge Luis Borges, https://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/users/08/bblonder/phys120/docs/borges.pdf

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, won a Red Mountain Press Award for Shadow Light. Other books include Jackalope and a memoir, The Turtle’s Beating Heart (Univ. of Nebraska). At Haskell Indian Nations Univ. she founded the creative writing program. She teaches for Baker Univ. and lives on Tsuno Mountain. www.deniselow.net

 

Traveling Along the Corpse-roads by Diana Rosen

The writer submits to a walking meditation, ignoring
the beauty under her feet, unaware how they crumple
sun-golden Lion’s Tooth and dandelions, the clover.

The writer stomps on, blind to the circinated fiddlehead
budding into a passion of forest green, signaling her
to connect, tell those tales, those found only in dreams.

No sweet roses scent the air. Instead, geraniums, marigolds
release their bitter scent, awakening her to the Lion’s Tooth,
dandelion, the sweet clover patch that invites honeybees.

Under the dimming twilight, white daisies fold back petals
white, warming blankets for a dream-filled black-dark night.
Blades of grass thick and tight in a unison of lawn lushness

whisper to the hedges, the hydrangeas, “She is back.”
The writer sharpens her pencil, reclaims her notebook,
the eraser. Refreshed, in spite of herself, she begins.

Diana Rosen has published poetry in RATTLE, Existere Journal of Arts & Literature, Poetry Super Highway, and As It Ought to be Magazine, among others. Redbird Chapbooks will publish her forthcoming hybrid of poetry and flash, Love & Irony. To read more of her fiction and nonfiction, please visit www.authory.com/dianarosen

Removing a Gate by Jeff Burt

Maidenhair ferns at your feet
seem to rise out of the dust for rain,
the sword ferns sprawl to catch fog,
and the maple lifts itself out of the soil,
massive roots becoming visible
like the muscles of a shirtless power-lifter.
You have taken the widowed boards
of the gate and saved them from the fire
to build a little eave that shelters
the dahlias from full sun,
and now brushed by the breeze
this creates they nod thank you
thank you thank you,
and you wonder what you can do
for hikers and walkers weary from the dust,
a small jug, a metal cup, a wooden bench.
You have wood leftover,
and the sun still to set.

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County California, home of redwoods, fire, fog, and ocean. He has contributed to Rabid Oak, Williwaw Journal, Willows Wept, and Red Wolf Journal.

All That Remains: Inspired by Van Gogh’s Bedroom by Kim Baker 

One wonders who, alongside Vincent himself,
stares down upon the empty bed.
Two framed guardian angels?
Or the visages of brothers, of lovers?
They are all that remain to witness
this hauntingly serene scene.

Moon-glow window partly ajar.
Towel resigned on a nail near one door.
Patiently anticipating painting smocks
signature straw hat at the hooked dowel.
Hairbrush, pitcher, carafe
atop an apprehensive table, waiting.

Chair pulled close to the head of the bed
as if someone had just been reading 
a soothing children’s story to Vincent
or pleading in a blanket of red woolen urgency
robin’s egg blue reasons for Vincent 
to skip the long walk to the wheat field 
accompanied only by the cold steel of peace.

When she isn’t writing poetry about big hair and Elvis, Kim works to end hunger and violence against women. A poet, playwright, photographer, and NPR essayist, Kim publishes and edits  Word Soup, an online poetry journal (currently on hiatus) that donates 100% of submission fees to food banks. Kim’s chapbook of poetry, Under the Influence:  Musings about Poems and Paintings, is available from Finishing Line Press.      

What Is Lost Is Not Lost by Pete Mladinic

I like looking at bicycles in old films
such as this one of Dawson, a mining town,
now a ghost town.  I like at the opening
the long line of coke ovens, the miners, two
men, walking home from the mine.  I like
the bicycles, the dogs, the women’s dresses,
their hairstyles, looking into their faces
wondering what happened
after Dawson, where they went, what they
did or did not do, what they did or did not say.
The lady narrator, her
last name Loy, said she and her
husband went to graduate school the following year. 
They had two young sons, Merrill, the elder
and Bill, who lives now in Eugene,
Oregon, and introduces his mother
in the film, which was shot by Mr.
Loy in 1938.  There are numerous shots
of the boys, several of Bill in his playpen
and then one where he seems
happy, having just
learned to walk.  There are shots
of the mines, the houses that sprang from
mountainsides, the church, the school.
Now, nothing left in Dawson
but the cemetery.  I like the moments of Bill
walking on his own,
but I have no idea what he does in Eugene.
He must almost be seventy.
His mother, a young wife
in the film, sticks her tongue out in
one shot.  She was born in 1917.


Peter Mladinic has published three books of poetry: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press. He lives in Hobbs, New Mexico.

March Triptych by Margarita Serafimova

My heart is full – an ocean of swell – with you.
Everything is green and dense, weighty,
and swaying bottomless.
White are the changing faces of the waves.

*

My life was inside of me, budding, dark-red
against my inner skin,
on a frosty morning,
when instead of a sky, a radiant emptiness reigned.

*

The dying hours are blossoms at dusk.
You touch me so, my face is trembling.

Margarita Serafimova is winner of the 2020 Tony Quagliano  Award, and finalist in other contests. She has a chapbook, A Surgery of A Star (https://bit.ly/3jDU793) and two forthcoming collections. Her work appears widely: Nashville Review, LIT, Agenda Poetry, Poetry South, Botticelli, Steam Ticket, Waxwing, A-Minor, Trafika, Noble/ Gas, Obra/ Artifact, Great Weather for Media, Nixes Mate, etc. Visit: shorturl.at/dgpzC.

My Brother Julian’s Apple Core by Alejandro Lucero

It never saved us from the rain, but
Julian’s apple core looked like an umbrella with a stem
and tasted like the Tecolote Mountains
because that’s where we always picked them.

Julian’s apple core looked like an umbrella with a stem.
He tossed it down from a tree in the Tecolote Mountains
because that’s where we always picked them.
It looked like a green planet falling smoothly out of orbit.

He tossed it down to me from a tree in the Tecolote Mountains
and promised matching Harley’s and sunglasses to keep the bugs out of our eyes.
They looked like green planets falling smoothly out of orbit.
We ate so many, the cores crept up our pant legs like scrambled field mice.

He promised matching Harley’s and sunglasses to keep the bugs out of our eyes.
I imagined riding to our apple tree. Kickstands sunk into the dirt.
We ate so many, the cores crept up our pant legs like scrambled field mice.
Through their scratches, we kept eating as they fell from their branches.

I imagined riding to our apple tree. Kickstands sunk into the dirt.
Sometimes we only took one bite before dropping those little planets to the ground.
Through the scratches, we kept eating as they fell from their branches, but
all I wanted was to turn the apples into umbrellas.

Sometimes we only took one bite before dropping those little planets to the ground.
Julian’s apple core never saved us from the rain, but
I still wanted to turn them into umbrellas
and to taste the Tecolote Mountains with every first bite.


Alejandro Lucero is a writer from Sapello, New Mexico by way of Denver. He serves as an intern and poetry reader for Copper Nickel. Pushcart Prize nominee, his most recent poetry and nonfiction can be found in Progenitor Art & Literary Journal and is forthcoming in The Susquehanna Review and Thin Air Magazine.

Review of Sumita Chakraborty’s Arrow by Dana Delibovi

Arrow
by Sumita Chakraborty
Farmington, ME: Alice James Books
Paperback: 2020
Review by Dana Delibovi

One night this past fall, I stood in the backyard, staring at a big, white moon in the branches of a tall and leafless tree. An eerie moonlight revealed clouds in the night sky.

I was amazed, anxious, and not a little afraid. I grabbed my notebook to capture this image, but I was powerless to seize it. As it turned out, the job had already been done, in Sumita Chakraborty’s exquisite new book of poetry, Arrow. In this impeccably curated collection, Chakraborty pierces us with an overriding truth: We can feel but never understand the sheer mass of existence that we behold, from moon to tree to cloud to our own astonished breathing.

The poems in Arrow range from the short lyric to the long, imagist montage. They share, however, vocabulary, syntax, and aura that allow the poems to flow together with a satisfying logic and cohesiveness. The book is not merely a batch of best poems. It is a series where the progression and groupings of the poems add up to something greater than the sum of parts. Chakraborty’s poetry often makes clear the appeal of such order and philosophic rigor, while also pointing out that this kind of regularity is imposed on truly unfathomable mysteries by needy human minds.  As she writes in the paragraphed prose-poem, “Essay on the Order of Time”:

                                                            …Here, the argument is that death requires the
most discrete borders of all things, and that there is a clear order to how it functions as an
event in time. The concerto was being performed in honor of a poet who had recently died.
To face this loss, this man required the myth of order.

Trying—and failing—to escape the mysterious continually drives the poems in Arrow to hit their mark. Sometimes, it’s the enigma of love that remains impervious to any effort at rational explanation. Love is an eclipse, weighty but transitory. Love is ungraspable—the poet proves she longer loves is by cutting off her hands. Just as often, it’s the enormity and variety of the universe that resists all reason. In the lyric poem, “Marigolds,” for example, Chakraborty asks (but cannot answer) the most basic of questions—why this?

                        …if we made incisions
from breastbone to rectum, the caves within
would reveal themselves to house celestial ash.

As the stag, I fear the mouth of the rifle.
As the rifle, I point my mouth, deadly, toward you.
As the hunter, I execute myself so I may feast.

Worlds such as this were not thought possible to exist.
My lord, I aim a mile beyond the honeyed moon.

Many of the images in Chakraborty’s poems, along with the emotional vehemence of her writing, bring to mind an association with the poetry of St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582). I have written about Teresa and her literary and philosophic legacy. I am also currently translating Teresa’s corpus of 40 extant poems, so I am very close to her work, and perhaps call it to mind too easily. Certainly, Teresa’s 16th-century rhymes and Chakraborty’s modern free verse are worlds apart in terms of prosody. Still, I couldn’t help but notice that many of Chakraborty’s important or recurring nouns—stag, hunter, arrow, breast, cave, spirit, beloved—are Teresinian nouns. Both poets are unabashed as they cry out or breakdown over their inability to understand the world. Both address the divine. Even the one poem I did not like in Chakraborty’s book, “Dear, Beloved,” had enough of these Teresinian features to resonate with me. Although I found “Dear, Beloved” too long to sustain its rapid-fire succession of images, I did appreciate the wild heart, the spiritual spark, and the rich vocabulary that linked the poem to Teresa, and indeed, to all the other poems in Arrow.

Chakraborty’s volume culminates in the multipartite title poem, “Arrow.” This is followed by a chorus of utter amazement at what exists, aptly titled, “O.” “Arrow” begins with a monologue spoken by the night, personified as the Titan goddess, Nyx, a recurring figure in the collection. After the monologue come 24 prose poems, each “titled” with a small icon of the moon’s phases. The invocation of night, the poem’s title, and the moon phases conjure up another night goddess, the Olympian archer Artemis, as well as the steampunk and tattoo images of moon phases on a double-pointed arrow.

An arrow, shot by night, aims for its target in a landscape always obscure to us. When the barb wounds us, shock follows; we feel what the Wisława Szymborska described in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech:  “Whatever else we might think of this world—it is astonishing.” We are left panting, scared, and powerlessness, just as I was that night in the backyard, gazing at the moon, the tree, and the illuminated clouds. Chakraborty has been there, too:

Truth be told. I have never lacked for amazement…
This also means I have also always held an affinity for fear, for shifting
uneasily toward the next dazzling thing. For the categories of nocturnal and diurnal
alike, not to mention crepuscular and cathemeral, the uncanny is the house best lived in.

The same could be said for Chakraborty’s Arrow. The book never lacks for amazement. It is a house to live in, and a dazzling thing.

 —-

Dana Delibovi is a poet, essayist, and translator from Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. In 2020, her work appeared in The Confluence, After the Art, Apple Valley Review, Linden Avenue, Noon, and Witty Partition. She is the 2019 winner of the James Haba Award for Poetry and a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee.

 

 

Under the Radar by Javy Awan

Duck your head down—no, lower—down by me—
pardon my whisper, but we’re under the radar—
escaping detection, maneuvering free—
we’re at the controls where controllers can’t see,
scouring for secrets of forbidden traffic—

We’re clumsy but finessing, caressing the contours,
guiding and gliding along edges and tops, joy-riding
our own unmonitored zone—we’re under the radar!

We alone know our whereabouts acrobatic, hush-hush—
the tickles on your belly are the tendrils of leaves—
stay alert to the lifts of buildings and hills, but don’t rise
and rise and rise on the thrill—keep hugging alongside,
the target’s in view, nary a clue—we’re under the radar!

Above, the invisible rays would imprint our paths,
distinguish our craft, assign tags, and keep tabs,
tip off the hostiles to aim their ack-ack—our blips
extinct on the screen, ablaze in the skies—Amazing!—

We hit it—a simultaneous bloom! Veer back to home base,
reining-in breathless highs, lest we soar into sights—
Victorious, unharmed, we’ll rest arm in arm—under the radar!

Javy Awan’s poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Solstice, Ghost City Review, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Ekphrastic Review; two of his poems were selected for reading at locations on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour in 2019. He lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

 

Tear Down by John Sierpinski

In this broad shouldered city, in this 50’s vintage motel
arrive to check in at the office, but the cigar chomping
manager has given away our room. A pot of what looks
like tea, but really a poor attempt at coffee sits on a single
burner “hot plate.” Stale-looking donuts wait to be put
out of their misery. Sorry about that, he says with a jerk.
but I’ll tell you what I’m gonna doI can’t wait for this,
I think. For ten bucks more our honeymoon room just
opened up. He winks at my girlfriend. His cigar is
sopped. I grab the key, we are both tired from the road,
tired of this guy. Walk down a few doors past a couple
yelling behind their door. Key in the lock. This “special”
room has mirrors on the ceiling that reflect the filth,
shag carpeting up the walls, stained carpeting on the floor,
a cigarette butt in an ashtray. The word kinky is too kind.
On the floor, next to the bed, there’s a balled up washcloth
Just a minute, I say and head off toward the office.
The cigar-man is talking to a tired-looking older woman.
They both look up. The room isn’t clean (an understatement)
and there’s a used washcloth on the floor. There’s
a moment of silence, then the woman says, They were
only in the room an hour. I’m the one who cleaned the room
after they left. Fatigue has bitten my lip. The woman
hands me a clean washcloth. I turn around and stomp back
to the room. This night is disintegrating into dust. No
wonder the couple two doors down are still shouting, shouting.

John Sierpinski has published poetry in many literary journals such as California Quarterly, North Coast Review and Spectrum Literary Journal to name a few. His work is also in eight anthologies. He is a Pushcart nominee. His poetry collection, “Sucker Hole,” was published in 2018 by Cholla Needles Press.

 

Interview with Margarita Serafimova, Winner of this Year’s Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award

Zingara Poetry Review is pleased to present this interview with Margarita Serafimova.

Margarita Serafimova is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist in nine other U.S. and international poetry contests. Her work appears widely, including Nashville Review, LIT, Agenda Poetry, Poetry South, London Grip, Waxwing, A-Minor, Trafika Europe, Noble/ Gas, Obra/ Artifact, Great Weather for Media, Nixes Mate, and Moria.

She has had four poetry collections published in Bulgarian and is the recipient of the 1st place prize for the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award. Established in the memory of poet and editor Tony Quagliano, the biennial prize is awarded for an outstanding body of work by a poet who “consistently strives for cutting edge and avant-garde innovation.”

First, a poem from her most recent chapbook, A Surgery of A Star:

Weeping: Clarinets

The circle allowed us for an instant – an instant
in eternity –
to step out of it,
and then, it closed.

*

Your work has garnered the 2019-2020 Tony Quagliano award. Tell us more about this distinction. 

This international biennial prize awarded by the Hawai’I Council for the Humanities honors author Tony Quagliano by ‘recognizing an accomplished poet with an outstanding body of work’.  Under the award eligibility rules, “the poet must consistently strive for ‘cutting edge‘ and ‘avant-garde‘ innovation, which means experimental, innovative, ‘pushing the envelope‘ literature.” To quote the award-givers, “winning poets exemplify what Tony loved—poetic innovation that embraces experimental craft and a joy in unexpected language”.

The criteria for the award entail having, as a poet, “a body of work over a period of years” that corresponds to the requirement of innovation. The recognition comes with a $1000 prize.

I’m honored!

Your latest collection, A Surgery of a Star (Staring Problem Press), contains poems that are described as “cutting edge” inventive poetry. Tell us a little about how form and content work together in such brief poems as ‘L’éternel Retour to capture this sense of “piercing intimacy” that reviewers mention. 

‘L’éternel retour’ (Eternal Return), first published in LIT Magazine by The New School, is one of the poems, on the basis of which I was awarded the 2019-2020 Tony Quagliano International Poetry Prize. It is also a centerpiece of my chapbook, A Surgery of A Star (2020).

This poem is a good example of how work usually happens in my creative process: the poem simply occurred to me, in its entirety, while I was going on about my day, not sitting down writing; I recorded it in my phone, and never revisited a word. Later, I self-translated it from the Bulgarian original into English. So, my poetry-making is organic; content and form are inherently merged from the genesis, they never exist separately, I don’t work on making them come together.

I never have any poetic goal, in terms of either form or content, in mind prior to writing a poem. Poems happen to me of themselves, dropping in my palm like ripe fruit. I usually express my feelings in free-verse micro-poems, three-four lines, sometimes, just two; so, the form is relatively stable and easy. Sometimes – again, without any design – it happens that I write longer poems, but almost never longer than a page. As for the content, it is invariably impulsive and has its origins in my lived experience. I don’t write poems deliberately and I don’t write directly from my ideas – aesthetic, philosophical, social, political – so much as from my emotions and sensations. My foremost concern is authenticity: to capture an expression of what I experienced emotionally that rings true; the poem has to resonate, to feel right, above all. If it does, that’s it. I am satisfied, I do nothing more. I don’t deliberately seek for what would be the accurate or the best expression, but I have been cultivating all my life a free mind that speaks its own mind, so to speak, and when it does, poems organically occur out of the intensity of my emotional life.

Intimacy with another person, or another living being, or another manifestation of life on Earth, or being itself as a deep sensе of self, is very important to me existentially, as is visual beauty. They naturally manifest themselves in many poems that occur to me on the subject of ‘You’ or the couple as a modus of being, in which some image of the sublime is mirrored. Or, a more plural ‘we’ bond – identification with some small intimate community. My inner attention is trained on those phenomena, those moments, and that intense mental attention often produces Eros-driven works; Eros in the sense of the binding life-principle opposed to Thanatos, or annihilation. The exquisitely piercing or blessing-like balmy nature of such moments, which my mind is focused on re-producing as a verbal sight, is an existential reality for me, in my actual every-day life; it is not an abstraction or a concept. That energy of the immediate living, combined with my attraction to images and my taste for condensed language, produces highly concise visual pieces; a kind of passion. I delight in revelation – when I discover, by means of looking at things, a sense of some truth underneath their surface, inside of them, I am thrilled. If I feel energetic, which I often do, forming words is then my impulsive response – verbal expression that photographs the distilled essence of the real-life happening I witnessed. As the bosom of things is usually inseparable from their outward appearance, their imagistic presence, their truth is manifested to my eyes, which are always looking, and not to my rational brain.

How do you develop a keen eye for the imagery that appears in your work?

 All my life, I have derived a keen pleasure from contemplating beautiful natural occurrences and living beings – trees, sunlight, birds in flight, surf breaking, the moon and clouds, clear air, statues, wind moving, the sound of it in high branches, the aura, the force of it, light in water, elegant fish, a desired face. I am dedicated to looking at them to the point of saturation; I’m devoted to them. It is only natural that a part of me exists as a medium for words reflecting them. As mentioned, poems usually occur to me from actual instances of physically looking at the many faces of the Earth – the serene heavens, the magnetic soil, the soaring blue depths. Or, when I am relaxing indoors, in some pretty room, cinematographic images appear in my mind’s eye, merging fantasy, actual experience, and artifacts from the collective unconscious; then, words naturally crop up from those vivid images. Normally, my mind produces a verbal rendition of an image after the latter appears clearly in my imagination as it were against a deep dark background. As a poet, I operate from my vision. It gifts me exquisite feelings, which trigger utterances, as a sort of existential witness-bearing to the intricate beauty of existence. My role is to make sure I am at all times genuine so that I won’t fail my moments.

What kind of considerations go into building and ordering a collection of poems?

In my experience – which includes four full-length collections in Bulgarian published in 2016-2020, a chapbook in English in 2020, another one forthcoming in January 2021, and a full-length collection in English to appear in 2022 – I haven’t used rational or professional ideas as tools to structure my books. I am not an educated or professional poet; I’m a natural, self-made one. I’ve been rather impulsive, even arbitrary in my selections and ordering. I will group together works that were written in a particular period, which has marked them with a common timbre or a family of evolving moods. Often, I will arrange them in chronological order, following their natural rhythms and progression. In this way, real life serves as the director of the narrative. I will use a title that is an important signifier of the mood or underlying energy – it will be a blind-eyed choice, not a thought-through one, no considerations outside of my own gut feeling would apply (the reader is never there). I might pull in works from other periods as well, if they have some tie to this underlying binding drive or symbol. In other cases, I will group together poems belonging to a certain relationship; a gallery devoted to a single lover. Or, the collection will be dedicated to some cross-cutting presence, some comprehensive, systemic passion in my life. For instance, my debut full-length book (in Bulgarian) is entitled ‘Animals and Other Gods’ – it gathered all of my works of adoration of animals and birds, and other forces of nature, expressing my exultation from focusing on their subjecthood and their power, their glory, written over a long period of time, many years, different styles and moods. My second full-length collection, ‘Demons and World’, similarly encompassed poems written over diverse periods in my life, all somehow linked to an elusive feeling of yearning for, and choosing, the world over darkness. ‘A Surgery of A Star’ is very much about erotic desire as a capacity to transcend.

How does writing poetry fit into your professional career as a lawyer?

I don’t spend much time writing my brief poetry, it occurs to me while I am doing other things, including legal work. I then just need to take a moment to commit the lines to writing so I won’t forget them. Self-translating and submitting take more time, which I manage, being a freelancer, an independent expert; I manage my own time. However, even during a brief recent period when I was employed as an international lawyer in a fast-paced environment managed by others – during the pandemic – I was able to protect my inner energy and my spiritual space remained intact, nothing was able to stop my poems from coming. Regardless of how busy and strained at work I was, I would be walking in the park with my dogs, or returning home from the supermarket, or even sorting out evidence in a case file, and poems would simply enter and lighten the scene. It helps that I always bond with the people I have to interact with during the day, with the space I inhabit – rooms, garden, stairs, windows, with the neighbourhood, the environment that contains my life. I am quite selective and once I am able to focus on a thing or a person because I chose them, I can then love them – on a spectrum of ways – and investing myself so, I can decorate as it were the space for my poetry, make it habitable for it. Then, I share it with the people around me, whether it’s expected or not. I could not care less about conforming.

How has it been writing during the pandemic? 

For the first six months, I was in a new city, starting a new job, with strong personalities as my colleagues, with whom I shared many important things in common and equally, various cultural and other differences, which all bred tensions and strife. But we overcame, and populated our interactions variously with kindnesses, excitement, closeness, joyful surprises – in addition to the pressure of not being according to each other’s expectations. Throughout this process, I held on to my sanity by being a worshipper of the sublime oaks in my area. I was their scribe, the recorder of their crowns. They elevated me and sustained me. A full-length manuscript emerged from us. I called it ‘The Oak Odyssey’ because I was always going home, from the moment I set sail. So, this is how I traversed the rise of the pandemic. Now, I am in the Greek islands, where I feel eternally at home, the sea reminding me every waking hour of what is permanent and what is impermanent. Everything is.

Our Voices

Stark naked ballerinas with rapiers,
skin heated by some sun,
and these naked rapiers.
A scent, a long shine.

*

where the light sneaks in by Mike Jurkovic

The psychic took my personal check and I
quickly questioned all her projections.
Surely she knew my grifter past before predicting
Ten weeks on The Times Top Ten,
Amazon Prime’s Big Pick.

Have you read my stuff
it’s freaking depressing I said.
A curt evaluation I’ll concede but
I don’t see stars anymore
just bullet holes where the light sneaks in.

We need your truth she said
and I thought: Wow!
What a blurb that would make.
Let Kirkus charge me now!

This country ain’t piss she said
lending credence to my last submissions,
heft to my whole oeuvre.
Can I quote ya I asked
w/o grimace, my standard scowl of the day.
Twenty six ninety nine she said
w/o fanfare or delight.

Mike Jurkovic is a 2016 Pushcart nominee and his latest book is  AmericanMental, (Luchador Press 2020). His CD reviews appear in All About Jazz,.  He is the Tuesday night host of Jazz Sanctuary, WOOC 105.3 FM, Troy, NY.